Three weeks ago, former Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau resigned under pressure from Mayor Betsy Hodges and City Council members. Her departure appears to be a “removal” from the position, which would entitle her to compensation under her contract with the city.
When Harteau stepped down, about 17 months remained on that contract. So far, city officials have been mum on details of the severance agreement now being negotiated.
A state data practices official told the Star Tribune that any payment made to Harteau to leave the job is “likely public” and that if there is a settlement agreement, that “will also be public once it is finalized.” The official also said it’s unclear if there’s a “dispute” between the city and Harteau and pointed out that a deal “settling any dispute arising out of an employment relationship” is public information.
Let’s hope city officials are clear that there shouldn’t be any question that the payment details and the circumstances of the separation should be disclosed.
City Attorney Susan Segal told an editorial writer that she couldn’t discuss details of the negotiations but that the city is following provisions of the Minnesota Data Practices Act. The act requires that an agreement involving more than $10,000 “settling any dispute arising out of an employment relationship” must be made public.
According to the city’s website, Harteau’s salary in 2016 was $169,411. Under the contract for her first three-year term, signed in 2012 and renewed for 2016-18, she will receive a lump-sum payment equal to three months of her salary if she is “removed” from the job. She could receive another three months of salary “at the sole discretion” of the city’s executive committee, because she wasn’t given three months’ notice before she was asked to resign. That six months of pay alone could be as much as $84,700.
In addition, the contract says Harteau will receive payment for accrued unused vacation and sick leave.
The final payment pact must be reviewed and approved by the City Council’s Ways and Means Committee, which expects to hold its next meeting on Aug. 28. If the committee approves it, the agreement would go to the full City Council for approval.
In the meantime, just after Harteau stepped down Hodges nominated Deputy Chief Medaria Arradondo to replace her. This week, a council committee OK’d his nomination for the remainder of Harteau’s term. That means that for some period of time, the city could be paying for a chief twice — a higher salary for the new chief and whatever severance and other contract-separation benefits the city negotiates with Harteau.
Minneapolis voters make choices about their elected officials, in part, because of their budget decisions and stewardship of public dollars. They deserve to know how much this critical police leadership transition costs and have enough information to make their own judgments about whether it was worth it.