HELENA, Mont. — The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks paid a $137,500 settlement to the former parks administrator who was fired nearly a year ago by the outgoing agency director for reasons that were not disclosed, the Independent Record reported.
The Independent Record learned of the settlement with Chas Van Genderen in September and while FWP confirmed it existed, the agency would not release additional information, citing employee privacy concerns. The settlement includes a confidentiality agreement.
Martha Sheehy, an attorney for the newspaper, began discussions with the department’s legal counsel, arguing that such settlements are public records and that the newspaper intended to file a lawsuit if necessary.
Attorney Eric Holm said Van Genderen agreed to waive his right to privacy, which led to Monday’s release of the settlement amount.
“Montanans have a right to know how the state is spending money, especially when it involves a six-figure payout to a former high-ranking employee amid a budget shortfall,” said IR Editor Jesse Chaney.
Under the settlement, Van Genderen agreed to withdraw complaints filed with the Montana Human Rights Bureau, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and grievances with the Board of Personnel Appeals. The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks acknowledged no liability and both sides agreed not to make in disparaging statements about the other for 10 years.
The department agreed to purge some disciplinary records from Van Genderen’s file and to conduct business in a way that does not discriminate or retaliate against those who allege discrimination.
Van Genderen had been making just over $105,000 a year when he was fired by former department Director Jeff Hagener.
Beth Shumate was recently named Van Genderen’s successor.