Lee settles with city for $150,000
Embattled former human resources director Anna Lee reached a mutual separation agreement with the city of Newberg last month, the details of which have now been released.
According to a copy of the agreement obtained by this newspaper through a public records request, Lee and her attorney received a lump sum of $150,000 upon her departure. She was also awarded six months of COBRA benefits, valued at approximately $13,000 to $14,000.
Lee and the city reached the agreement on Jan. 20 and the city's insurance carrier, Citycounty Insurance Services, made the payment soon after. CIS handled the negotiations with Lee and her Portland-based attorney, Daniel DiCicco, ending a contentious relationship between Lee and the city with a payment found to be agreeable by both sides.
According to outgoing interim city manager David Clyne, CIS officials believed the payment was "an acceptable result" and was only 20 percent of DiCicco and Lee's initial demand of $750,000. Former part-time employee Alison Seiler has taken over as human resources director at the city in an interim capacity, Clyne said.
"The new city manager (Dan Weinheimer) will take on the hiring after he arrives," he said. "In the meantime Alison has agreed to continue as interim pending her replacement's arrival."
Lee's agreement with the city is contingent on her not pursuing any further legal action against them, similar to the terms of the agreement reached with Greg Patton after his successful lawsuit against the city earned him $250,000. Patton successfully accused the city of racial discrimination when Lee chose not to hire him as an assistant in her department, claiming that his qualifications fit the position, but he was not hired because he is African-American.
Lee's issues with the city date back several years and includes spats with the Newberg-Dundee Police Department and IT director David Brooks, an alleged break-in at her office that prompted accusations leveled by her toward the police department and vice versa, and most prominently the Patton lawsuit.
When the agreement was initially announced without publicly disclosing the compensation Lee received, DiCicco said Lee and the city ended on good terms. The number agreed upon in the end, he said, was "fair" to his client.
"We negotiated a very favorable separation agreement for her to release the city from liability on her claims of retaliation," he said. "It's a general release that includes more than a standard agreement because there was a lot going on."
Lee was placed on administrative leave in the weeks leading up to her resignation and the signing of the mutual separation agreement. According to the text of the agreement, the city agreed to payment as long as Lee agreed to "fully and generally release the city from any and all liabilities and settle any and all claims arising out of employee's employment with the city."
The agreement states that those liabilities and claims include, but are not limited to, "claims for compensation, wrongful termination, constructive discharge, retaliation, harassment or discrimination …" and that the signing of this agreement represents a "full and final compromise" between the two parties as they both agree to end the matter here.
Negotiations occurred only through correspondence and never in person between CIS and DiCicco, he said. Clyne signed the agreement on Jan. 17 and Lee signed it on Jan. 20 – the same day as her resignation.
The process took a toll on Lee, DiCicco said in the days following her signing of the agreement. He said Lee wishes the best for the city and its employees and hopes it modernizes the department she once ran.
"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."
When Weinheimer takes office as the new city manager, he will be tasked with hiring Lee's full-time replacement, among other tasks on the docket for a city government embroiled in turmoil for the past year or so. For now, Clyne said the city is moving along with Seiler in the HR director position.
"(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."
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