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Abbotsford pays $30,000 for employee to resign

The city of Abbotsford has agreed to pay $30,000 in exchange for one of its employees resigning at the end of the year, according to an agreement released to the Tribune-Phonograph in response to an open records request.

The four-page resignation agreement was released Nov. 20 after a previous records request had been denied. Even though it was listed as “confidential,” the document is still subject to disclosure under Wisconsin’s open records law.

The resigning employee is Todd Medenwaldt, who had been serving as the city’s water and wastewater supervisor until April of this year. Medenwaldt is still on the city’s payroll, even though another employee has been assigned to the supervisor position.

Medenwaldt’s resignation won’t be offi cial until Dec. 31 of this year, according to the agreement he signed on April 17. (Mayor Lori Voss signed the agreement on behalf of the city on April 18.) According to the terms of the agreement, Medenwaldt will be paid a total sum of $25,000, and $5,000 will be paid to his attorneys to cover his legal fees.

Of the $25,000 amount, $18,856 will come in the form of wages, paid out on a biweekly basis at an hourly rate of $16.37 for 32 hours per week until Dec. 31. These payments will account for Medenwaldt’s unused sick time, vacation time and accrued time off.

The city also agreed to continue paying the employer’s share of Medenwaldt’s Wisconsin Retirement System benefits, and his health insurance deferment benefi t of $350 per month. Over the course of eight months, from May to December, that would equal $2,800 in exchange for not taking the city’s health insurance.

The $25,000 payout also includes a “resignation benefit” of $2,109, to be distributed on a biweekly basis through the end of the year.

The agreement waives any claims of wrongful termination and prevents Medenwaldt from filing any grievances under the city’s employee handbook or state and national law.

“This agreement shall not in any way be regarded as admission by the city or Medenwaldt that either of them has acted wrongfully toward the other,” the document states. “The city and Medenwaldt specifically deny any liability to or wrongful act against the other or anyone else.”

It remains unclear what led to this agreement or why Medenwaldt decided to resign after 20 years of employment with the city of Abbotsford.

The $25,000 payout, however, is in line with a severance package approved in 2015 for outgoing public works employee Frank Schreiber, who received a total of $27,400 after 26 years of employment.

The agreement specifically prohibits the city and Medenwaldt from making any “defamatory or disparaging remarks” about the other party in a public forum.

It also states that the dollar amount included in the agreement shall not be disclosed, except under certain circumstances, such as when disclosure is “required by law.”

Wisconsin courts have ruled that severance agreements with public employees cannot be kept secret unless there is a compelling public interest to do so.

Ongoing investigation?

When the Tribune-Phonograph first requested Medenwaldt’s resignation agreement in April, the city’s attorney, Alyson Dieckman, denied the request based on the fact that it was “subject to an investigation being completed by an outside agency.”

City administrator Dan Grady said at a May 21 council meeting that all questions regarding Medenwaldt should be directed to the Clark County Sheriff’s Department.

Captain Kerry Kirn, chief of investigations for the sheriff’s department, has confirmed the existence of an investigation, but will not provide details at this point.

The open records request came after an April 16 closed session in which Dieckman met with members of the city council to discuss “dismissal, demotion or discipline of a public employee,” and possible litigation the city may become involved in. No action was taken in open session.

It was then announced at the council’s May 6 meeting that utility employee Josh Soyk had been promoted to the position of interim water/wastewater supervisor. Soyk was later given this position permanently and switched from hourly to a salaried employee.

The Tribune-Phonograph submitted a second open records request in October after a $5,000 payment to the Yde Law Firm appeared among the city’s monthly bills.

Medenwaldt did not respond to a phone message seeking comments for this article.