Holyoke city leaders question payout to former employee - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Holyoke city leaders question payout to former employee

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HOLYOKE, MA (WSHM) -

Holyoke City Council President Kevin Jourdain says he didn't find out until weeks later that the former city solicitor was given a $45,000 settlement when she quit in April.

Mayor Alex Morse says, even with the harsh criticism he is receiving, he stands by his decision and this employee.

But at a meeting Tuesday night, some residents and city leaders spoke out. 

"It does not pass the smell test," said Holyoke resident John Brunelle.

Morse gave former City Solicitor Heather Egan a $45,000 settlement when she quit April 29.

Some residents believe there is more to the story than what Morse told the council Tuesday night.

"For the mayor to just make this move, it's unprecedented," Brunelle said. 

Morse says he came to the decision with his team and outside legal counsel.

"The mayor has the authority to execute a settlement agreement to prevent claims against the city," Morse said Tuesday night.

But he won't say why the settlement was made.

"There are personnel issues both in the school department and on the city side that have to be kept private for those employees," Morse said. 

City Council President Kevin Jourdain questions the mayor's authority and the process made to come to this decision.

"One of my criticisms was the lack of transparency here, and we've never had somebody try to pull an issue like this here before," Jourdain said. 

He says the mayor never notified the council of the settlement. Someone told Jourdain to look into it, and he found money came out of the personnel services line in the law department.

"I've been here 21 years. This is the first time I've ever seen it," Jourdain said. 

Many other city councilors are concerned by the mayor's actions as well.

"Giving $45,000 to an employee that, quite frankly, we don't know the reasons why, I'm kind of bothered by it," said Councilor James Leahy.

Morse tells CBS 3 he takes his responsibilities as mayor very seriously, and despite the concerns from city council and residents, he does not regret his decision.

"Because I'm willing to stand by an employee and their privacy, not just this employee but any employee that works for the city, I'm willing to take that criticism because it's the right thing to do," Morse said. 

Now the mayor will attend a future finance committee meeting to answer councilors' questions. Jourdain says they may even do a state review by the attorney general of this process if necessary.

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