Burnsville school district mum on $250,000 buyout to ex-HR chief

  • Star Tribune
  • February 23, 2012 - 9:24 AM

The Burnsville school district continued to deny requests Wednesday to more fully explain why it paid its former director of human resources more than $250,000 to leave her position.

The lawyer for the district, in a written response to a request for more information, would say only that Tania Chance and the district "wished to terminate their employment relationship."

Left unsaid was what led the two sides to want to end their relationship in January, only six months after Chance was signed to a two-year contract extension at an annual salary of more than $136,000.

Chance, 39, was on the job only 18 months and left with about 18 months remaining on her contract.

The departure has fueled speculation in and around Burnsville about the reason.

The e-mail from attorney Maggie Wallner noted that the separation agreement was intended to satisfy "all of the district's contractual salary and benefit obligations" and that in exchange Chance was releasing the district of "any and all possible claims."

Wallner, with the law firm of Kennedy & Graven, did not specify what those claims might have been.

State law says that when a government entity settles an employment dispute or pays a buyout, it must disclose "specific reasons for the agreement if it involves the payment of more than $10,000 of public money."

Ron Hill, chairman of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school board, said district officials were aware that news of the large payout to Chance was causing a firestorm on the Internet and generating speculation that the district did not do its due diligence in hiring Chance, who came to Burnsville from Spring Lake Park in 2010.

"We are watching ... that's all I'll say," said Hill, who noted that online commenters have called on people to attend the March 1 board meeting to vent their frustration at the payout.

Hill did clarify Wednesday that a video Chance had posted online before being hired played no part in the end of her employment. "That's not something that was part of our decision," Hill said.

Hill said he would not comment on the legal wrangling over getting the district to be more specific about why Chance's employment ended.

But Hill defended the hiring and vetting procedures that brought her to Burnsville.

"We have a process," Hill said. "The process, I'm sure, was followed. Sometimes the results with every employee are not what you would want."

Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281

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