Minnesota DNR manager gets $250K settlement for firingby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio,
Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — An enforcement supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources, who was fired for her role in a 2007 conference where state fundraising rules were broken, received a $250,000 settlement from the agency on Wednesday.
The settlement comes after Capt. Cathy Hamm filed a lawsuit against the DNR and Commissioner Mark Holsten for sex and marital discrimination, defamation of character and violations of the Minnesota Data Privacy Act.
Cathy Hamm and her husband, Mike Hamm, were both placed on leave in May 2008, after news reports about the 2007 conference for game wardens questioned the amount of state money that was spent on the event. DNR officials allowed Mike Hamm to retire, but his wife was terminated for violating agency policies.
Following her firing, Cathy Hamm accused the DNR of gender and marital discrimination, and filed a complaint with the state's Department of Human Rights.
In October 2009, an arbitrator ruled that the DNR terminated her employment without just cause and that Hamm should receive back pay and benefits.
The arbitrator, who ruled Cathy Hamm should be reinstated, said in his decision that there was little evidence to show Hamm violated the agency's policies. Instead, he said, many of the rules were broken by top level DNR management, including Hamm's husband.
Cathy Hamm returned to work after the arbitrator's ruling. She plans to retire in August, after a 35-year career with the DNR, according to a statement released Wednesday by her attorney's office. She was one of the first two female officers hired by the DNR in 1980.
Hamm's attorney, Jim Kaster, said the settlement exonerates her.
"I think it's a fair and reasonable settlement, sure," Kaster said. "The settlement is really payment for emotional distress damages. Cathy was blamed publicly for something that she wasn't responsible for."
A DNR spokesman said the department settled to save litigation costs.
Hamm and her attorneys will share the $250,000 settlement.
Madeleine Baran is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.