Cornelius agreed to provide former police chief, who left department amid internal inquiry, with $10,000 severance payment
Feb 22, 2013 (The Oregonian - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The city of Cornelius agreed to provide former police chief Paul Rubenstein, who left the department amid an internal investigation, with a $10,000 severance payment as part of his retirement agreement, according to city records.
Around the time the city reached the agreement, three main options were on the table: Rubenstein could retire; he could resign; or the city could move forward with a for cause termination hearing, Cornelius City Manager Rob Drake said on Friday. The Feb. 14 separation agreement between the city and its top cop shows Rubenstein would receive the $10,000 severance payment so long as he, in turn, agreed to not sue the city on any grounds, including under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Half of the severance payment will be paid by the city, Drake said, and the city's insurance will cover the other $5,000.
"We accepted his retirement, and I think that made it an easy departure," Drake said.
The agreement said Rubenstein had seven days to revoke his waiver to any age discrimination claims against the city. If he chose to revoke the waiver, the city could either uphold the remainder of the agreement or end the entire agreement, "returning to the status quo existing prior to the execution of the agreement, including proceeding with a for cause termination hearing as well as requiring repayment to the city..." of the $10,000, records say.
Drake said Rubenstein also received $24,000, a payout of his vacation time that he accrued but did not use. According to a Feb. 13 email from Drake to Rubenstein, the former chief, who earned $8,720 per month, had asked that the city provide him with three months worth of pay, or $26,160. The city did not agree to that.
In the email, Drake also thanked Rubenstein for his "professional approach to this difficult situation."
Rubenstein was placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 8, pending the internal investigation. He remained on leave until his retirement last week. Drake said while on leave, Rubenstein expressed a desire to retire.
"Paul had talked about retirement before last week, and that was the direction he decided to go in," Drake said. "That was fine with us."
Drake later added: "Sometimes, when things move the way they are, a city is happy for a retirement because it's an easier departure ... It can be cheaper."
Drake wouldn't say whether the city knew findings related to the internal investigation at the time of Rubenstein's retirement. City Attorney Chad Jacobs is reviewing the internal investigation, which was conducted by the Local Government Personnel Institute, a Salem-based organization that provides help to Oregon governments for human resources and labor relations issues. Drake said he does not think Jacobs has finalized the investigation.
The internal inquiry started after four Cornelius police officers submitted an Oct. 16 letter addressed to city leaders that brought multiple allegations against Rubenstein and Assistant Chief Joe Noffsinger. While Rubenstein was on paid leave, Noffsinger remained on duty.
The four officers, in a 15-page letter, allege "ongoing corruption" in the department and claim Rubenstein along with Noffsinger covered up officer misconduct and created a "hostile and adversarial work environment." Sgt. Shawn Watts and officers Doug Schuetz, Mark Jansen and Miguel Monico signed the letter.
Last week, the city also announced that Noffsinger will be demoted to lieutenant on Feb. 26. Drake said the department will eliminate the assistant chief position and add two lieutenants, including Noffsinger, who will report to the chief.
Drake declined commenting on whether Noffsinger's demotion is related to the investigation.
Retired Yamhill County Sheriff's Capt. Ken Summers has been heading the department since he was appointed as interim chief on Nov. 13. He will continue to lead the department while the city searches for a new chief.
-- Rebecca Woolington
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