The Minneapolis City Council on Wednesday approved a separation agreement with former Police Chief Janeé Harteau, minus a controversial nondisparagement clause — and agreed not to use such clauses going forward.
The nondisparagement clause would have prevented Harteau from saying anything negative about Mayor Betsy Hodges, council members or city department heads, and prevented them from saying anything negative about her. Hodges, whose idea it was to include the clause, agreed to remove it amid criticism.
“Gag orders prevent transparency [and] accountability and also inhibit public servants from learning from mistakes,” said Council Member Jacob Frey, who co-authored a resolution prohibiting nondisparagement clauses for public employees. “Following the gag order that Mayor Hodges placed in Chief Harteau’s severance agreement, I wanted to set a standard of transparency so this wouldn’t happen again.”
Frey, a first-term council member, is one of more than a dozen candidates challenging Hodges in her campaign for re-election.
Council Member Andrew Johnson, Frey’s co-author, said nondisparagement clauses “are actually really problematic, even in the private sector.”
“I think it’s important that we take a stand against these clauses, especially in the public realm, where transparency is of the utmost importance,” he said.
The council passed the resolution unanimously.
Before the vote, Council President Barb Johnson, who previously raised concerns about including the clause in the agreement with Harteau, encouraged other council members to support the resolution.
“I think it’s a sensible solution,” she said.
Harteau resigned July 21, six days after a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in south Minneapolis. Her severance agreement includes nearly $183,000 in payments through the end of 2018 and a year of medical and dental insurance coverage.