WESTFIELD, NJ — When her 18 years of service heading up the government entity managing the town’s special improvement district ended in July, the executive director of Downtown Westfield Corporation left with a sizable retirement payout in the works.

Then Executive Director Sherry Cronin signed a separation agreement with the Downtown Westfield Corporation July 31 promising her two separate payments totaling $44,825, records released Friday show. The agreement granted Cronin a payment of $20,000 on Aug. 15 and a second payment of $24,825 to be paid Jan. 31, 2020.

TAPinto Westfield obtained the separation agreement through a request under the state’s Open Public Records Act.

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The payments to Cronin are conditioned on a confidentiality and non-disparagement clause under which both the DWC and Cronin “agree to keep the existence and terms” of the agreement in “strict confidence.”

“I’m obviously not going to comment on a legal agreement other than to say that no DWC services will be impacted,” said Patricia Hanigan, who chairs the board of the Downtown Westfield Corporation.

Cronin also declined to comment on the legal agreement.

“I loved the job, but it’s not mine anymore,” she said. Cronin, who lives in Westfield, began her tenure as executive director following her career as a real estate auditor for Prudential, a job she left to lead the DWC, where she had begun volunteering. She had earned an annual salary of $89,760 as the DWC's chief executive, payroll records show.

Mayor Shelley Brindle, who is a non-voting member of the board of Downtown Westfield Corporation, said stakeholders representing the downtown approved the agreement through representation on the DWC Board of Directors.

“It’s important to remember who comprises the DWC board,” Brindle said. “It’s two property owners. It’s two residents. It’s two merchants, and it’s a councilperson. Those seven members comprise that voting.”

Brindle noted that the DWC is funded by an assessment on businesses within the special improvement district, or SID, and not by residential property taxes. The DWC’s 2019 budget approved by the Town Council March 26 stood at $416,347.

ARCHIVE: Profile of Sherry Cronin, Executive Director of the DWC & Volunteer

In 2004, Cronin helped the DWC to secure recognition from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Cronin also oversaw the DWC as it secured a $20,000 transformation grant from the state’s Main Street, New Jersey program, monies that will help to pay for a mural at the South Avenue circle underpass.

Included in the agreement is a requirement that Mayor Shelley Brindle provide a letter of reference for Cronin.

“In my 18 months as mayor, I have found Sherry to be an extremely reliable and dedicated employee serving as the executive director of the Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC),” Brindle states in the letter. “I am confident that Sherry’s professional skills, experience and personal qualities will make her an asset to your organization.”

On Aug. 26, the board of the DWC hired Kathleen Miller Prunty, the former director of special improvement district in nearby Cranford, to be its interim executive director.

Minutes from the closed session meeting of the DWC on that date show the board intends to evaluate the position no later than Dec. 31, and that Miller Prunty has been hired for a six-month term at $7,500 per month. The minutes state that the DWC intends to conduct a national search for a full-time director.