The Roseville school district paid an associate high school principal $115,000 in exchange for his resignation this winter, a settlement that school officials said was in the district’s “best interests.”
But officials declined to give a specific reason for Todd Olson’s resignation, which an open-records advocate called a violation of state law.
The school board agreed to pay Olson as long as he agreed not to disclose the facts and circumstances surrounding the settlement, according to documents filed in Ramsey County District Court.
In turn, Olson agreed to release the district from all claims, including those under the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.
“Everything is confidential. I can’t make a comment,” said Olson’s attorney, Philip Villaume. The chairwoman of the school board, Kitty Gogins, also declined to comment.
Maggie Wallner, the district’s attorney, said in an e-mail that the payout, partly covered by insurance, “is in the best interests of the district.”
In a written statement, district spokesman Josh Collins denied that Olson was barred from speaking, saying that Olson could release data classified as public under state law. Collins said the district is in compliance with the state’s Data Practices Act by giving “best interest” as the publicly stated reason for the settlement.
Olson served as associate principal in Roseville from June 2013 until this winter, according to his LinkedIn page. His résumé says he worked a year for the Lakeville district as an integration and equity coordinator, and he identified himself as the Roseville district’s college and career readiness administrator from 2016 to 2018. He’s now listed as an educational consultant.
Several parents in the community said they didn’t know anything until now about Olson’s resignation and settlement.
Wallner said the district has not concealed any conditions that are harmful to students, teachers or other employees. She said there were no complaints or charges against Olson during his employment, and she said he was not the subject of any disciplinary action.
‘Why did they pay him?’
Attorney and open-records advocate Don Gemberling said Wallner’s assurance that the district was not hiding anything was hard to swallow, given the secrecy surrounding the settlement and the district’s statement that Olson has never been disciplined.
“If there were no complaints or charges against him, why did he quit and why did they pay him?” Gemberling said. “That’s all kinds of reasons not to trust them.”
Gemberling, a board member of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, said the settlement crafted by the Roseville district flouts Minnesota’s open-records laws.
“Any settlement agreement is public, and if it’s for more than $10,000, the statute says it has to have specific reasons,” he said.
Gemberling added that efforts to silence parties also defy state law. “The statute says any gag rules in settlement agreements are null and void,” he said.
Roseville Area Schools is the latest public agency to enter into a private high-dollar settlement with an employee.
Last year, the St. Paul City Council paid $250,000 to its former human rights director Jessica Kingston with no explanation. A Burnsville human resources director was paid $255,000 in 2012 to leave after just 18 months on the job, and school district leaders refused to say why. Taxpayers were so outraged that a legislator sponsored a measure to clarify the state’s data practices laws.
The Roseville district enrolls more than 7,500 students in Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Maplewood, Roseville and Shoreview.