Tania Z. Chance
Burnsville schools' former HR director's complaints revealed
- Article by: LAURIE BLAKE
- Star Tribune
- March 2, 2012 - 7:40 PM
Tania Z. Chance, the Burnsville school administrator who was paid almost $255,000 to leave her job, had filed complaints with the state against Superintendent Randy Clegg and withdrew them as a condition of her severance agreement, a Burnsville newspaper reported Friday.
Chance filed complaints against Clegg with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the Minnesota Board of School Administrators, according to a report in ThisWeek Newspapers, which says it obtained a copy of the separation agreement without nine lines blacked out, as they were in the version given to the Star Tribune and other media.
What Chance might have accused Clegg of is not known. Both the Department of Human Rights and the Board of School Administrators said complaints filed with their offices are made public only if they result in disciplinary action.
Clegg did not return a call asking for his comment on the alleged complaints. School board Chairman Ron Hill could not be reached.
School district spokeswoman Ruth Dunn said the district had not given ThisWeek a clean copy of the agreement and would not comment on the information in the story. According to Dunn, the newspaper got the agreement from an "unknown source."
"The district cannot confirm or deny that the newspaper has printed redacted information from the separation agreement, because to do so would release private data," Dunn said in a written statement.
However, she added: "Complaints can be made to state agencies, and they must be accepted for processing regardless of whether or not there is any merit to the allegations. In fact, most complaints made to agencies are dismissed. But to get a dismissal, the employer must spend significant money and time -- even for claims that have no merit whatsoever.
"When employers are faced with potential litigation, they have to consider the cost of defense versus settlement -- and that is especially true for a public school district. To do otherwise would be acting irresponsibly," she said.
If the district had not redacted sensitive data and it was later found that the language released was "classified as private data, the potential cost to the district would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars," the statement said.
Public document or not?
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."
The Burnsville district's attorney has contended that the district fulfilled its obligation by explaining that both sides "wished to terminate their employment relationship" and that the agreement includes "full release of any and all possible claims against the school district."
An attorney for the Star Tribune has continued to argue that a complete copy of the agreement should be made public, and the school district is seeking a state opinion on whether the school board has handled the matter correctly.
In an earlier communication, the district's attorney claimed that the blacked-out portions of the agreement did not contain an explanation of why the district made the agreement with Chance. "Your assumption that the redactions contain the reasons for the agreement is incorrect," attorney Maggie Wallner wrote in an e-mail to a Star Tribune attorney on Feb. 22.
ThisWeek reported that the newly revealed lines in the severance agreement include references to "charges pending with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and/or Equal Opportunity Commission" and "complaint(s) made on or about Dec. 8, 2011 to the Minnesota Board of Administrators regarding Randall Clegg."
The revealed lines make it clear that Chance's withdrawing the claims against Clegg was a condition of the severance agreement.
Chance, the former human resources director for the school district, resigned Feb. 1 after working just six months of a new two-year contract.
The payment of nearly $255,000 is one of the largest in recent memory by a Minnesota school district, especially for someone who is not a superintendent. The large sum has sparked anger in the community.
More than 200 people attended a Burnsville school board meeting Thursday night, where dozens of parents, teachers and taxpayers questioned the board about the severance.
Chance could not be reached for comment Friday but said in an earlier e-mailed statement that she could not elaborate on the separation agreement. "My empathy is with the public as I believe they fully deserve answers," she wrote. "Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to provide any details. All I can suggest are proper data requests on current leadership."
Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287
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