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Council settles with former city manager

City to pay more than $145,000 to avoid lawsuit

With just enough protest votes to indicate their dislike, Minot city council members Monday approved a settlement agreement with former city manager Tom Barry that will pay him $140,510.55, plus up to $5,000 in attorney fees.

Barry signed the agreement Friday. The council voted 4-3 to approve the agreement.

Barry assumed the position of city manager on Dec. 12, 2016. His contract was amended two years later. Last December, the council approved a five-year contract extension that stated Barry would be paid a full year’s salary, rather than six months’ salary, in event of early termination, unless engaged in embezzlement or other felony. Barry’s 2020 salary was $181,627. The city council terminated his employment April 20 after receiving an investigation report from a legal consultant who concluded he created a hostile work environment.

“In some ways accepting this motion and paying him off is a rational, logical businesslike decision. But I think there were some points where ethics, at least personal ethics and values, have to take precedence over economics and expediency,” council member Stephan Podrygula said.

“We terminated Mr. Barry’s employment for violation of city policies – for, according to the investigator’s report, doing things that caused damage to city staff and for exposing us to significant liability,” Podrygula said. “He was terminated for cause. Given the way the original contract was written, I think we’re pretty much stuck paying him with the six months that the original contract said, but my position is and has been that he obtained the furtherance of the contract – the renewal of the contract – through fraudulent circumstances. And I think it would be inappropriate to reward somebody for bad behavior.”

“There is a benefit to accepting this resolution and moving on,” council member Paul Pitner said. “My own personal principles, my own personal beliefs, I have to hold firm. Again, we’re stuck with six months. This goes above and beyond that. I can’t get on board with it.”

Council member Lisa Olson agreed the settlement is a bitter pill to swallow. However, she said she can accept it.

“I am doing this more for our current city employees, because I think that this is a chapter that needs to be closed so that we can move forward,” she said.

Council member Tom Ross said the city accomplished little with its negotiations in the past months.

“He basically got just about everything he wanted,” Ross said. “There is no way that I could vote for this and look a City of Minot employee in the eye and say, ‘I stand for you and I will defend you.’ Voting for this is a slap in the face to the employees.”

Voting for the settlement were Olson, Carrie Evans, Mark Jantzer and Mayor Shaun Sipma. Voting against were Pitner, Podrygula and Ross.

In the agreement that prohibits either side from suing, Barry also agrees not to disclose confidential records and information obtained during his employment. The agreement provides that if a prospective employer of Barry contacts the city, only the human resources director is authorized to speak and shall provide no information other than to acknowledge standard employment verification information, including dates of employment, job title and rate of pay. The investigation into hostile work environment is public record, though, and would need to be produced in an open records request.

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