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New documents shed light on Ruppert's departure

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WORTHINGTON --New documents received by the Daily Globe on Friday shed additional light on the sudden departure of Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert on April 3.

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Sent by the county's special legal counsel, Jessica Schwie, of the Lake Elmo-based Jardine, Logan & O'Brien law firm, the documents include a third amendment to Ruppert's employment agreement, effective April 3, the date Nobles County Commissioners announced Ruppert's retirement.

The amendment spells out Ruppert's new role with the county, including details that he hasn't actually retired, but rather taken on the role of advisory county administrator until April 3, 2013. The document states Ruppert may assist the county, at the direction of the county, in the transition of his previous duties to another individual. Ruppert no longer occupies an office in the Nobles County Government Center, yet he remains a full-time county employee.

As advisory county administrator, Ruppert will collect a salary of $55.33 per hour -- that's $2,213.20 a week and $115,086.40 over the course of the next year --from the county. In addition, the county will contribute to his retirement account as required by state law. Both the salary and retirement contributions will be paid until April 3, 2013.

Ruppert will also be provided with the "same group hospital, medical, dental, life and disability insurance benefits, cafeteria contribution and medical savings account contributions as provided to all other management personnel and under the same conditions as provided to other management personnel," according to the amended contract, until April 3, 2013.

Other terms of his contract were cut immediately upon the April 3 announcement, including his monthly automobile allowance, cell phone and cell phone services, and reimbursement of unauthorized expenses.

The amended contract states Ruppert's termination with the county will take effect April 3, 2013, "without any further process ... or motion by the board."

"This date of termination shall remain in place and salary paid even if Employer should terminate the services of Employee prior to April 3, 2013," states the amendment. "The employee may accelerate this termination date and any salary remaining to be paid up to April 3, 2013, provided it does not exceed an equivalent of six months' salary, shall be paid in a lump sum at the time of Employee's last pay check."

Nobles County Commissioner and board chair David Benson said he was instructed not to comment on any of the information included in the amended contract.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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