The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 24, 2012

UPDATED STORY: Council, Geisler reach settlement

Under tentative agreement, former HR director will receive 2 years’ salary, lawsuit dismissed

By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — UPDATED - 9/25/2012, 10: a.m.: The Clinton City Council at a special meeting Monday morning approved a settlement in the lawsuit against the city filed by its former human resource director, David Geisler.

The lawsuit names the city, former Mayor Rodger Holm, former councilman Mike Kearney, current council members Jennifer Graf, Paul Gassman, Charles Mulholland, Bev Hermann and Maggie Klaes and current Mayor Mark Vulich as defendants, alleging they violated the state’s Open Meetings Law on Sept. 2 and Sept. 13, 2011.

Geisler filed the lawsuit in response to action by the city council during the closed sessions in which the human resources department and his job were cut to chisel $800,000 from its budget after a shortfall was discovered last summer.

RELATED: Council's meeting time doesn't make sense

In an earlier summary judgement, District Court Judge Mark Smith ruled the defendants had violated the Open Meetings Law on Sept. 13, 2011 when they went into a closed session during a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the elimination of the three departments as well as what, if any, severance pay would be paid to individual employees.

Because of a factual dispute about what happened at the Sept. 2 meeting, Smith ruled that matter should proceed to trial. That trial, as well as the hearing to determine possible fines for the Sept. 13 violation, was set for next Monday, Oct. 1.

The special meeting to approve the settlement was held at 8:45 a.m. Monday with notice posted late Friday afternoon. Local media outlets were not informed by the city of the special meeting.  

City Attorney Jeff Farwell explained the meeting was held with such short notice in part because of the approaching trial date on the case.  



“With this meeting, there is a reason that it is scheduled for this time, early in the morning. First of all there were some negotiations late last week in order to try and settle this case...we need to have something done with the council as to whether they're willing to accept the settlement so that if they don't, we can proceed with case preparation,” Farwell said. “It all came down to this is the only time everyone was available and would also provide enough time for trial preparation if the council were to vote in the negative.”

As a result of the settlement, the entire suit, including the summary judgement and charges against the defendants in their capacities as individuals, will be dismissed.  The settlement also stipulates Geisler will not be able to sue the city in the future regarding this matter.  

FACEBOOK: Share your opinion on the settlement meeting

According to the resolution approving the settlement, the city will pay Geisler the equivalent of two years’ salary at $71,224 per year minus all customary employment deductions. A lump sum will be paid to Geisler from the date of Dec. 1, 2011 to the date of the signing agreement.  The city will also pay a lump sum representing the city's normal contribution to IPERS, approximately 8.07 percent, for this time period. The city's portion of FICA benefits will be paid on behalf of Geisler. The remainder of the two years’ salary will be paid in regular installments from the date of signing the settlement.  

The city will also pay Geisler a lump sum of $6,000 for his out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance-related matters for the previous year. Finally, the city will pay a $30,000 lump sum for Geisler’s attorney’s fees.

“The fact is, we did nothing wrong and that is why the settlement is coming through,” Councilwoman Maggie Klaes, Ward 1, said.

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UPDATED - 9/24/2012, 2:35 p.m.:
The Clinton City Council at a special meeting this morning approved a settlement in the lawsuit against the city filed by its former human resource director, David Geisler.

The lawsuit names the city, former Mayor Rodger Holm, former councilman Mike Kearney, current council members Jennifer Graf, Paul Gassman, Charles Mulholland, Bev Hermann and Maggie Klaes and current Mayor Mark Vulich as defendants, alleging they violated the state’s Open Meetings Law on Sept. 2 and Sept. 13, 2011.

RELATED: Mayor, council accused of open meetings violations

In an earlier summary judgement, District Court Judge Mark Smith ruled the defendants had violated the Open Meetings Law on Sept. 13, 2011 when they went into a closed session during a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the elimination of the three departments as well as what, if any, severance pay would be paid to individual employees.

Because of a factual dispute about what happened at the Sept. 2 meeting, Smith ruled that matter should proceed to trial. That trial, as well as the hearing to determine possible fines for the Sept. 13 violation, was set for next Monday, Oct. 1.

RELATED: Fines faced in Open Meetings Law case

The special meeting to approve the settlement was held at 8:45 a.m. today with notice posted late Friday afternoon. Local media outlets were not informed by the city of the special meeting.

City Attorney Jeff Farwell explained the meeting was held with such short notice in part because of the approaching trial date on the case.  

"With this meeting, there is a reason that it is scheduled for this time, early in the morning. First of all there were some negotiations late last week in order to try and settle this case...we need to have something done with the council as to whether they're willing to accept the settlement so that if they don't, we can proceed with case preparation,” Farwell said. "It all came down to this is the only time everyone was available and would also provide enough time for trial preparation if the council were to vote in the negative.”

RELATED: Clinton city officials consider appealing to Supreme Court

As a result of the settlement, the entire suit, including the summary judgement and charges against the defendants in their capacities as individuals, will be dismissed.  The settlement also stipulates Geisler will not be able to sue the city in the future regarding this matter.  

According to the resolution approving the settlement, the city will pay Geisler the equivalent of two years’ salary at $71,224 per year minus all customary employment deductions. A lump sum will be paid to Geisler from the date of Dec. 1, 2011 to the date of the signing agreement. 

The city will also pay a lump sum representing the city's normal contribution to IPERS, approximately 8.07 percent, for this time period. The city's portion of FICA benefits will be paid on behalf of Geisler. The remainder of the two years’ salary will be paid in regular installments from the date of signing the settlement.  

RELATED: District judge denies reconsideration in open meetings ruling

The city will also pay Geisler a lump sum of $6,000 for his out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance-related matters for the previous year. Finally, the city will pay a $30,000 lump sum for Geisler’s attorney’s fees.

“The fact is, we did nothing wrong and that is why the settlement is coming through,” Councilwoman Maggie Klaes, Ward 1, said.

The settlement was approved by the council 6-1, with Rowland dissenting. It will be signed and submitted to the court and Geisler for acceptance.

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UPDATED - 9/24/2012, 11:00 a.m.:
The Clinton City Council at a special meeting Monday morning approved a settlement in the lawsuit against the city filed by former Human Resource Director David Geisler.

The lawsuit names the city, former Mayor Rodger Holm, former councilman Mike Kearney, current council members Jennifer Graf, Paul Gassman, Charles Mulholland, Bev Hermann and Maggie Klaes and current Mayor Mark Vulich as defendants.

In a summary judgement, District Court Judge Mark Smith ruled the defendants had violated the Open Meetings Law on Sept. 13 when they went into a closed session during a committee of the whole meeting to discuss the elimination of the three departments as well as what, if any, severance pay would be paid to individual employees.  

As a result of the settlement, the summary judgement as well as charges against the defendants in their capacities as individuals, will be dismissed.   

The settlement was approved six to one with Councilmember John Rowland, at-large, dissenting.  

More details will be released this afternoon at clintonherald.com.

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The Clinton City Council is expected to hold a special meeting this morning to approve the settlement of pending litigation brought on by the city’s former Human Resources Director, David Geisler.

The lawsuit names the city, former Mayor Rodger Holm, former councilman Mike Kearney, current council members Jennifer Graf, Paul Gassman, Charles Mulholland, Bev Hermann and Maggie Klaes and current Mayor Mark Vulich as defendants.

In a summary judgement, District Court Judge Mark Smith ruled the defendants had violated the Open Meetings Law on Sept. 13 when they went into a closed session during a committee of the whole meeting to discuss the elimination of the three departments as well as what, if any, severance pay would be paid to individual employees.  The special meeting is to begin at 8:45 a.m. today.  For more details on the outcome of the meeting, visit the Clinton Herald’s website, clintonherald.com.