Legislature signs off on payout bill inspired by Burnsville schools case

By Christopher Magan
Posted: 04/30/2012 12:01:00 AM CDT
Updated: 04/30/2012 11:49:48 PM CDT

Minnesota lawmakers have approved changes to a bill that would bring more transparency to separation agreements with top local government officials and the investigations that sometimes precede those payouts.

The House voted 130-0 Monday, April 30, to approve an amended version of the legislation that passed the Senate with a 62-0 vote late Saturday. Initial support in the House was also unanimous with a 131-0 vote April 16.

“I think (Gov. Mark Dayton) will sign it, given the support,” said Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville.

Myhra authored the legislation after community outrage over a $254,814 separation agreement between Burnsville-Eagan-Savage schools and Tania Z. Chance, former human resources director. School officials revealed little about the reasons for the deal and redacted parts of Chance’s agreement.

The district later released a complete version after the Information Policy Analysis Division of the state Department of Administration, which advises governments about public records, issued an opinion that public information was withheld.

The full agreement showed Chance made complaints to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and state Board of School Administrators and had to drop those claims in order to receive her severance payment.

Myhra said her bill would shed light on such deals in the future. Under the proposed legislation, investigations of local government leaders would be public if disciplinary action is taken, they resign or

a complaint is dropped as part of another employee’s separation agreement.

Myhra’s bill had tried to make all investigation of top government leaders public, but advocates for school and local government officials objected when the measure reached the Senate. They feared “unfounded allegations” or other sensitive information might be made public.

State Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, worked to amend the bill, reaching a compromise he believed would receive the support of both political parties and Dayton, a Democrat.

Myhra hoped for more transparency, but said she was happy with the end result.

“There is a lot of win in this bill,” she said. “I believe it is a win for transparency.”

Christopher Magan can be reached at 651-228-5557.