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UPDATE: County Reaches $75,000 Settlement With Former Employee

Karen Shade - May 3, 2016 2:08 pm

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Saline County has reached a $75,000 agreement to resolve any and all claims brought by a former employee.

Saline County Vice-Chairman John Price signed two settlements, involving Suzette Brotton, former Salina-Saline County Health Department Interim Director and Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.  County Counselor Mike Montoya said that the cost to litigate the matter would be extraordinarily high.  Montoya had negotiated with others two settlements:

  • One pays Brotton $75,000, without any admission of wrong doing.
  • The second reflects a mutual letter of reference, outlining the dates and duties of Brotton’s employment. It also stipulates Brotton will not apply for work at the County in the future.

Under the agreement, both parties will cease making claims and allegations against the other.  Brotton has seven days to accept or reject the offers.

On March 16, 2016, the Kansas Human Rights Commission found sufficient cause for two out of four claims Brotton made, as a result of the 2014’s County Commission decision to hire Bronson Farmer as Health Department Director.  That three person Commission consisted of Randy Duncan, Jim Gile and John Price.  The KHRC found probable cause for discrimination in the Board’s decision to hire Bronson, over Brotton and for unlawful pre-employment testing.

Up until 2014, the HD Director position had been held by Yvonne Gibbons.  The roof of the HD “cracked” in 2013, which sparked much debate about possibly building or relocating the then joint city and county HD into a larger space.  Discussions broke down and the city backed out of previous agreements.  State statutes give the responsibility for operating the HD to the county.

At the time, Brotton was in the process of completing her master’s degree.  She coordinated both the local and regional Public Health Emergency Preparedness activities.  She served as Interim Director from January 1, 2014 for about three months.  Commissioners elected to re-hire Bronson Farmer, a former sanitarian at the HD, to serve as Director; Duncan and Price voted to hire Farmer while Gile did not.

Brotton left the HD shortly thereafter, amid concerns of sexual discrimination.  Farmer worked at the HD until he abruptly resigned on October 7, 2014.  For a period of time, the Commissioners themselves served “as Director”.  On November 21, 2015, they appointed Jason Tiller to the position of Director.  Tiller, who began work at the HD in November, 2014 initially worked at Health Educator and local Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.  He retains these responsibilities and has added the duties of Director; he is in the process of completing his master’s degree.  (In 2013, the Health Educator position had been full-time.  Another county currently coordinates the regional PHEP activities.)

The Commission’s decisions regarding the HD fueled the “Drive for Five” which successfully increased the size of the County Commission from three to five during the November 2014 election.

The settlement will be paid by the “insurance company”.  Commissioner Dave Smith asked if this decision would increase future insurance premiums.  County Administrator Rita Deister responded that settling the matter might be to the County’s favor as the insurer would know the total costs of resolving this matter.

Commissioners made this decision just before Noon, but after the Open Forum had concluded.  The sequence and timing of these events may fuel public support for Ray Hruska’s citizen request that ACCESS television tape all of the County Commission meetings.  ACCESS tapes the Open Forum but does not tape the “study sessions”, which occur in the Board’s second floor office.  Hruska proposed installing cameras in the Board’s office.  Price said he supported ACCESS taping all of the meetings but proposed that the Board officially meet only in the room already wired for ACCESS.

ORIGINAL:

Saline County has reached a $75,000 agreement to resolve any and all claims brought by a former employee.

In a Tuesday news release, the county said that is has reached an agreement with Suzette Brotton, in relation to her employment with the Saline County Health Department. Brotton was the interim director of the health department. She filed the complaint after Bronson Farmer was tapped to lead the department in early April of 2014.

The County has denied any and all liability associated with the claims. The County’s insurance carrier has estimated that the cost of litigation, regardless of the outcome, would exceed what the insurance company has agreed to pay.

The County has agreed to allow the insurance company to resolve the matter in order to avoid further litigation costs.

The deal happened following Tuesday’s regularly scheduled televised  meeting.

After the open Forum, commissioners reconvened.  County Counselor Mike Montoya and Marilyn Leamer from human resources were there.  They went into a ten minute executive session.

Afterwards, Montoya explained there were two parts to a settlement offer for Suzette Brotton, former Emergency Preparedness Outreach Worker, Assistant Director, and Interim Director at the then Salina-Saline County Health Department.

  • Without admission of wrong doing, the County would pay her $75,000.
  • The County has developed a  reference letter.  Both sides will stop making claims, allegations, etc.

Because Chairman Monte Shadwick was absent, Vice-Chair John Price inked the deal.

Brotton still has seven days to accept or reject the settlements.

Doug Clemens

May 4, 2016 at 10:04 am

Are you kidding me? Why settle with that pos. She is nothing more than a money grubber and she should think twice about ever setting foot in this town again. Mickey Mouse could have done better then she ever did while serving in her position. She did a horrible job just ask those who worked around her.

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