A kiss, a crash, a can of mace

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May 24, 2004 // UPDATED 1:43 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Add them up, and Minneapolis taxpayers shell out $75,000

The City Council approved a series of payments to settle outstanding claims -- including a $25,000 payment stemming from a birthday kiss that turned into a sexual harassment complaint compounded by retaliation charges.

The city also is paying $10,000 for a mace incident, $5,300 for a fire engine crash and $35,000 for a separate employment discrimination complaint.

The city agreed to pay Rebecca Caulfield, a former environmental health compliance officer, $25,000 to settle an employment discrimination claim, according to a May 3 memo by Assistant City Attorney Timothy Skarda.

According to the memo:

The city also agreed to write an apology letter and, separately, an acknowledgment of her years of service from the mayor. She had initially requested $59,200 plus attorney's fees.

Caulfield said her supervisor "pulled her into his arms and kissed her on the cheek for her birthday."

She made a sexual harassment complaint to department higher ups. She then failed to get a team leadership position (the only person in her civil service classification not to get one) and later got bypassed for a promotion that would have increased her salary $12,000 a year. She claimed retaliation and eventually quit, saying the hostile work environment effectively forced her out.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found no probable cause that Caulfield had been sexually harassed or "constructively discharged" -- but found probable cause that supervisors had discriminated against her for filing the complaint by denying her advancement.

The city settled rather than risk going to civil court.

In a separate claim, the city is paying $10,000 to prevent an excessive force lawsuit against a police officer.

According to an April 23 memo from Assistant City Attorney Peter Ginder:

Officer James Archer worked bar closing detail June 22 and responded to a fight between bouncers and Jason Rand, a patron, near North 5th Street and 1st Avenue North.

Officers handcuffed Rand, took him across the street and told him not to return. A larger fight occurred involving Rand's brother. Rand returned to the area and complained to police about their conduct. After he refused to leave, police forcibly arrested him for disorderly conduct and obstruction.

Accounts differ. Archer's report said during the struggle, an unidentified individual sprayed mace in Rand's face. Rand said he was not resisting, was forced to the ground and handcuffed. He and his witnesses said Archer then sprayed mace in Rand's face.

The City Attorney's staff discussed the incident with 15 officers who may have been at the scene that night. None recalled the use of mace.

Police Chief William McManus approved the settlement.

In a third incident, the city agreed to pay Galina Izraelev, a city engineer II, $35,000 to end a discrimination complaint, $26,000 in back wages and $9,000 in nonwage damages.

According to an April 19 memo by Assistant City Attorney Caroline Bachun:

Izraelev has worked for the city since 1990. She has applied for promotions approximately 20 times and never gotten one.

She volunteered to do in-house design work on the Hilltop water reservoir, work typically done by outside contractors. Her work saved the city money.

Izraelev then filed a complaint with the Civil Service Commission, saying she was performing higher-skilled work and should receive a permanent promotion to Engineer III.

The Commission said she should receive a temporary promotion and pay hike until reservoir work "was substantially completed."

Izraelev said the city has discriminated against her based on age, gender and national origin, and filed complaints with the state Human Rights Departments. Outside investigators found no probable cause.

However, it appears the city ended Izraelev's temporary promotion and pay raise prematurely, before the reservoir work was substantially done. She again filed discrimination charges, saying the city had retaliated against her for filing the earlier complaints.

The state Human Rights Department investigator found probable cause the city had retaliated for Izraelev's earlier discrimination complaints.

The city decided to settle the matter "amicably" because Izraelev still works for the city, "and brings value to the city."

In a fourth claim, the city is paying $5,340 to Illinois Farmers Insurance Company for claims it paid when a city fire truck struck a car it insured.

According to a April 28 memo from Assistant City Attorney Joel Fussy:

Fire Engine 17 was responding to an emergency medical call on Dec. 9, 2002, driving on Lyndale Avenue South. Mary Kubik, a private citizen, had the green light driving on West 36th Street, but failed to yield to an emergency vehicle.

The car and engine collided, and the engine subsequently hit a parked car insured by Illinois Farmers.

The city claimed immunity, but a judge denied it, stating that the engine driver had a statutory duty to slow down as necessary for safety.

The city is paying half of the $10,691 the insurance company requested.