By Katina Caraganis

MediaNews

SHIRLEY -- Despite having resigned from his position in March, former Chief Administrative Officer David Berry has been collecting unemployment since April, he said last week.

"I've been collecting unemployment from there since I got my last paycheck in March. The unemployment started coming in April. There haven't been any issues I'm aware of, and I've been keeping pretty good track of it," Berry said when reached by telephone at his Lexington home.

Unemployment benefits are typically for people who have been laid off from their jobs.

According to the mass.gov website, a person leaving his job voluntarily with good cause (attributable to his employer) or for an urgent or compelling personal reason, may be eligible. However, he must meet all the requirements of the law, including being able to work if a job were offered to him.

The first 26 weeks of unemployment are funded by the state and then after that, there is a slight reduction in the amount one receives and it is instead funded by the federal government.

Berry said he sees nothing wrong with his receiving unemployment as he continues to look for work elsewhere.

"We mutually agreed, so I resigned. The (Department of Unemployment Assistance) goes through everything in great detail. They have a big review process in your case," he said.

Berry said the DUA spoke with him on the phone as well as through a representative from the town. While he wasn't completely sure, he said it's likely a request like his would go through Treasurer Kevin Johnston's office.

Johnston referred all comment to new Town Administrator Patrice Garvin last week.

Garvin said she would not comment on the timeline of the process because it started before she began working for the town. She did, however, confirm a claim had been filed and there is a case pending.

She said the town is billed for a certain percentage of a former employee's unemployment costs, but would not say whether the town had received any bills in relation to Berry.

She declined to provide any more details on the situation.

Berry said after the DUA went through the necessary steps, they deemed he was eligible for unemployment benefits.

When Berry's benefits were decreased by 7 percent after the 26-week mark, he appealed the decision at first because he was not sure why there was a reduction in benefits.

Because of the government shutdown and the sequestration, all benefits are cut after the first 26 weeks.

"I decided not to appeal it after all," he said. "(The town) probably heard I was initially disputing it because I didn't understand how it worked. The selectmen have to sign all the documents that the state send to the town. Technically the selectmen have to sign off on everything."

Selectmen accepted Berry's resignation in February, effective March 31.

Berry was asked to resign in January but refused, so they began to draw up charges to fire him. He had a "just cause" clause in his contract that the town could execute if it deemed Berry was not measuring up.

Prior to his resignation, he was placed on administrative leave by selectmen. He used the rest of his vacation time between when he rendered his resignation and when it became effective.

Selectman Dave Swain, who was one of two members of the board to accept Berry's resignation earlier this year, said Friday all questions from the media must go through Garvin.

However, he said Berry has a right to file for unemployment.

"That's the law, and there's nothing we can do about it until the appeal process," he said.

Swain said he heard "a few months ago" about Berry's claim. He did not say whether he signed off on the necessary paperwork associated with it.

Selectman Bob Prescott declined to comment on the matter. Prescott, the newest member of the board, was elected to the position in May.

Chairwoman Kendra Dumont did not return multiple calls seeking comment.