Former Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau will receive the most generous severance package in Minneapolis government history, with a total payout of around $200,000, according to a proposed settlement from City Attorney Susan Segal.
The deal also contains a clause, in which the city agrees it won’t disparage the ex-chief, while Harteau promises she won’t be critical of the “mayor, city council members, and department heads.”
In letter dated Aug. 31, Segal says Harteau has agreed “to release the city from all claims” for a two-installment cash payout of almost $183,000, along with 12 months of paid COBRA, medical, and dental benefits.
Those benefits, estimated at $1,000 per month minimum, would bring Harteau’s total severance package to around $200,000.
The news comes six weeks to the day after Harteau resigned in the wake of the Justine Damond shooting. At the time, Harteau was earning an annual salary of $169,000 and had 18 months left on her contract.
The settlement must be approved by the City Council.
If approved, it’s a package far more generous than what was called for in the chief’s employment contract. According to those terms, Harteau, if she was to be “removed” from her job, was to receive a lump-sum payment equivalent to three months' salary, plus payment for accrued vacation and sick leave. She could get another three months of pay at the discretion of the city.
Six months of pay would have come out to almost $85,000.
Instead, Segal’s recommendation would put the terms at about 120 percent of Harteau’s salary.
Compare this with Craig Taylor’s. He’s the former director of the Community Planning and Economic Development department, who left his post in early August. Taylor’s settlement, according to the city attorney’s office, calls for six months' salary, estimated between $66,000 and $79,000 — and a half-year of COBRA payments.
The settlement with Harteau is smart business, according to Mitchell Hamline Law professor Joe Daly. He suspects the city is willing to pay out more now than risk a costly lawsuit down the road.
The way Harteau was forced to step down could’ve made for fertile litigation, says Daly, referring to Mayor Betsy Hodges’ comments less than a week after officer Mohamed Noor shot and killed the unarmed Damond, who’d called 911 for help.
“I’ve lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further,” read a statement from the mayor in late July. “… It is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well.”
The non-disparagement clause is standard fair for a situation like this, says Daly. He isn’t surprised by the healthy payout.
“A non-disparagement clause is quite common in public sector employment,” he says. “Not only does the city want it, often times the employee wants it too. Nobody wants to see potentially defamatory information in the newspaper that could give rise to a lawsuit.
“What this is saying we walk away and leave each other alone and keep our mouths shut about our feelings, our anger, or our frustration.”
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