Health Care

State settled four cases with workers in 2011; largest payout was to former Vermont Veterans Home worker for $150,000

The state settled four cases with state employees last year and made $190,000 in cash payments to two former workers. The largest of these was a $150,000 settlement with Cheri Bull, a former Vermont Veterans Home clinical care coordinator in 2011.

The state paid Bull $45,000 to settle claims over lost back pay, along with $105,000 for compensation, attorney’s fees, and other unspecified reasons, according to settlement documents obtained from the Department of Human Resources.

The agreement between the state and Bull is heavily redacted, so the exact nature of the dispute between Bull and the state remains unclear. Steve Collier, an attorney with the Vermont Department of Human Resources, said the settlement had nothing to do with recent controversy related to the home’s near closure.

In other cases settled in 2011:

– David Jacobs, an investigator who was dismissed from the Department of Liquor Control, received $40,000 from the state, and promised not to apply for future employment with the state;

– Jeanne Johnson, a highway safety chief from Waterbury, agreed to retire in August 2011. The Department of Public Safety agreed not to file any civil action against her for actions related to her job. She received four month’s salary upon retirement;

– Lawrence Rosenberger from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, a Burlington game warden dismissed in August 2005, was eventually reinstated after filing grievances with the state’s Labor Relations Board.

Collier said that he couldn’t say anything more about the settlements without violating attorney-client confidentiality. He explained that often in settlements, details in the two competing narratives by the settling parties were redacted, even in public documents, because they contained sensitive personal information.

The documents in the case of Cheri Bull suggest that the claims are broadly related to age discrimination, as she agreed to waive potential claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, a 1967 federal statute banning discrimination for those aged 40 or above.

Brian Sawyer, who is listed in documents as Bull’s attorney, didn’t return calls for comment. Sawyer formerly worked at Vermont Legal Aid and specializes in the legal issues concerning the elderly.

According to the settlement documents, Bull worked at the home from September 28, 2009 to June 18, 2010, leading the home’s North Unit. She cared for the residents in that unit and supervised its staff.

According to an undated letter of reference from Melissa Jackson, the home’s administrator, “Ms. Bull was a conscientious and dedicated worker who ‘went above and beyond’ the normal requirements of her duties in caring for residents of North Unit.”

Reached for comment, Jackson couldn’t say anything about Bull’s dispute with the state, citing confidentiality concerns, the state statute dealing with public records, and legal advice from Collier and others.

“I can’t give you any more information other than what is right there,” in the documents, said Jackson. “We don’t talk about employee or personnel actions: That’s all confidential information.”

Gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock, whose records request yesterday sparked interest in this issue, said that $150,000 seemed like a lot of money, but wouldn’t comment further.

Brock wouldn’t say who tipped him off about settlements involving state employees, saying only several people had approached him in recent weeks and days.

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Nat Rudarakanchana

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