After being placed on paid administrative leave by interim city manager David Clyne, former human resources director Anna Lee reached a mutual separation agreement with the city of Newberg last week.
Lee's departure includes a financial compensation package that her lawyer described as "fair" to his client. The details of the agreement had not been made public by press time Tuesday morning.
"We negotiated a very favorable separation agreement for her to release the city from liability on her claims of retaliation," Dan DiCicco, the Portland-based lawyer representing Lee, said. "It's a general release that includes more than a standard agreement because there was a lot going on."
Lee's contentious history with the city dates back several years and includes disagreements with the Newberg-Dundee Police Department and IT director David Brooks, an alleged break-in at her office and most prominently the Greg Patton racial discrimination lawsuit – a controversy at which she found herself at the center. Patton filed a successful lawsuit claiming racial discrimination after applying for a position as assistant human resources director with the city. A jury found in favor of Patton, awarding him $283,500 in damages. He later settled with the city out of court for $250,000, saving the city from any future litigation and Patton from possible reversal of the court decision on appeal.
As part of her agreement with the city – which she and DiCicco negotiated through correspondence and "never" an in-person meeting, he said – Lee will not pursue any further legal action against the city. The agreement releases the two parties from liability for their mutual disagreements and aims to prevent any future legal entanglements.
DiCicco said the past few years have taken a toll on Lee, who he said is happy to have this situation resolved.
"It's been very stressful for her," DiCicco said. "She wanted to create a modern human resources department in Newberg and, frankly, the city of Newberg is behind the times. Entrenched interests have been around for decades and she ran into a lot of brick walls."
Officials from the city of Newberg declined to comment on the agreement beyond confirmation that Lee and the city parted ways. Lee's resignation means former part-time employee Alison Seiler will remain the interim human resources director for the foreseeable future.
Clyne said he is uncertain how long Seiler will fill the position, but the hiring of a full-time director will be left up to incoming city manager, Dan Weinheimer, who will take office in late February.
"(Seiler) has assured us that she would serve as long as needed but was very interested in returning to part-time status at the earliest opportunity once the regular position is filled," Clyne said. "We are extremely grateful for the expertise and calm demeanor she brings to the job."
Lee's disputes with the city, DiCicco said, stem from her perception that it is refusing to adapt to modern times. DiCicco said that while his client is no longer interested in dragging these issues with the city on any further, she is disappointed with the pushback she faced in her efforts to run the department in a way she saw best fit.
"I think the big issue is that Newberg is modernizing and there are growing pains," DiCicco said. "This is the #MeToo era and things that may have been swept under the rug or ignored in the past are being spoken up about, and they should expect to be heard. That is what Anna Lee was going for and there are other people asking for the same things.
"Ultimately, we consider this a break on good terms. I think Ms. Lee wishes the best for the city and its employees."
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