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Monday, January 28, 2008

Maplewood / Welcome to Maplewood. Don't dis the management.

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14 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

City Council questions nondisparagement clause in ex-manager's contract
BY ELIZABETH MOHR and JULIE FORSTER
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 01/26/2008 09:47:02 PM CST


When the former city manager of Maplewood was hired, he wanted to be sure he wasn't bad-mouthed on his way out. It was laid out in his original employment contract.

If Greg Copeland lost his job, any disparaging or "negative comments" by City Council about his character or job performance would cost the city $100,000. The unusual nondisparagement clause took many in Maplewood City Hall by surprise, leaving council members who recently voted to oust Copeland to question its validity and legality.

Nondisparagement clauses are not rare, especially in the corporate world. But they are often fashioned in the opposite direction: A former employee cannot speak negatively of a company or its products as part of his or her termination, said Carl Crosby Lehmann, a Minneapolis employment attorney with Gray Plant Mooty who represents management.

Pacts that put the clamp on bad talk about the employee in a contract when hired, though, are rare. Especially among public employees.

"We've never heard of such a thing," said Tom Grundhoefer, general counsel for the League of Minnesota Cities.

Monday, the Maplewood City Council is expected to hire a lawyer to investigate Copeland's contract. The city's police chief already has been asked to find an outside agency to investigate. It is the latest flare-up in a suburb familiar with political drama.

There was never any discussion of a nondisparagement clause for Copeland, and it was never approved by the City Council, said Erik Hjelle, the council member who made the Nov. 13, 2006, motion to hire Copeland.

Somehow, though, it made its way into Copeland's contract, which was signed by the mayor on behalf of the city.

But because the council did not originally intend it to be one of Copeland's "benefits," the clause is invalid, Hjelle suggests. Debating the clause is "a moot point," he adds.

Copeland's appointment as city manager was controversial from the get-go. He replaced a fired city manager in 2006 on an interim basis until being formally appointed six months later.

Some City Council members and Maplewood residents said that he'd been hand-picked by the mayor and that no formal search process was ever completed.

"This is obviously a person who was taking a job in a sea of controversy," said Ellen Sampson, a lawyer with Leonard Street and Deinard who specializes in employment law and contracts.

"I've never seen anything like that in an employment contract, ever," she said.

Such clauses are difficult to interpret and police, said Crosby Lehmann. And most employers would be reluctant to commit to paying out large sums of money if such a vague deal was violated.

And there are plenty of other problems such a deal poses. Does limiting City Council members from disparaging a former city manager run afoul of their right to free speech? Does a council member elected after the contract was signed have to abide by the clause as well?

Maplewood officials now find themselves trying to decipher the agreement and its ramifications.

Copeland was fired when the newly elected City Council had its first meeting Jan. 14. It was the first order of business. The employment contract surfaced three days later.

City attorneys H. Alan Kantrud and Charles Bethel would not comment on the details of Copeland's contract. Neither would Chuck Ahl, the acting city manager and the public works director. Maplewood Mayor Diana Longrie could not be reached for comment.

The employment contract was signed by Longrie and Copeland.

A legal battle over the document is likely, Sampson said.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now thats funny! I love it!

12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another typical crooked government agancy. They sign the contract and then change their mind saying that the contract wqs supposed to be something else. Try that with your car payment or any other contract and see what happens to a ocmmon person!

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the real story here is the city council of Maplewood would like to spill the beans on this copeland guy, and the contract they have with him prevents them from even talking about how this guy operated.

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Longrie and copeland are buddies.

It sounds like a money making deal to me.

Get fired, get a payout.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:52,

What proof do you have that Greg Copeland was nothing other than a model government employee.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:08, months ago Bob posted a story about this Copeland guy.

If I recall a person calling themselves the Maplewood Mouse came here and spilled the beans on this guy.

I tried to search the blog for the story and I couldn't find it.

Maybe he is a model city employee. I don't recall. I'd like to hear from the Maplewood Mouse.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cha Ching for copeland!Just pay the guy.Learn from your mistakes and never do it again.

St.Paul take some pointers.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well the way it was explained to me, if I post something about Mr. Copeland now, then the city of Maplewood will be on the hook for $100,000.00.

I would not want Mr. Copeland to earn one dime from his past behavior as city manager. I stand by my past posts.

Only if the walls at city hall could speak.

Nancy, you are very quiet.

Maplewood Mouse

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
And that is the problem, the walls nor the employees will never say anything for fear of retaliation. People come here and belittle others for not using their identity, but in reality, no one wants to be identiied for fear of losing their job, the roof over their heads, their shallow freinds, etc. They are just like the whit epople that looked the other way when they lynched black people in the south.....just like the people who watched as the jews were marched into furnaces. Nothing but yellow bellied cowards who are fine with everything as long as it does not affect them. We even have some of those types here, aand no matter what the evidence they find a way to discount it because they personally benifet from the wrong doings, so life goes on......for some.

6:26 PM

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:26 PM,

The contract language is, "not to disparage or make negative statements." If the city council or city employee makes statements about Mr. Copeland, he gets $100,000.00

It has nothing to do with people speaking up, it has to do with we don't want Mr. Copeland to get the $100,000.00.

BTW, It is not a matter of not speaking out, but one of contract language, just like a court order, we can't say anything. Please note there is a Maplewood Blog called Maplewood Voices (http://maplewoodvoices.blogspot.com/) that has some very good information on Mr. Copeland and the mayor.

Lastly, don't you ever think for one minute that we did not keep notes on this mess. There are smart ways of going about this situation without loosing your job. Many department heads and employees did loose their jobs. Don't you think there were phone recordings made. Those little pocket tapeless recorders work well.

Maplewood Mouse

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is great to see that Maplewood is emerging from its experiences with sleaze, dysfunction, and stagnation.

Let Maplewood be a model for St. Paul to follow, before St. Paul destabilizes the Metro.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Hi All,

I received a very pleasant email from the Mayor of Maplewood expressing her opinion concerning anonymous post.

I don't think she is a fan of the Maplewood Mouse.(just my opinion, she didn't mention you Mouse)

She stated she believes there is no value in an anonymous post. And if she were to post at A Democracy she would use her name.

You are welcome here anytime MAYOR.

9:27 AM

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Maplewood Mayor has her own TV program. Maybe she would let all of us anonymous posters, (including Maplewood Mouse)on her program with bags on our heads.

4:01 PM  

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