The Shakopee Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a separation agreement for Utilities Manager John Crooks at its Sept. 3 special meeting and decided to pursue interim management with the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association.
Jody Brennan reluctantly voted to pass the separation agreement after she attempted to make a motion to remove one of the conditions of the agreement, which requires “all signatories of the agreement… agree not to disparage the other party.”
“I don’t feel I’m able to control what Mr. Crooks’ emotions are on any topic,” Brennan said, adding if she wants to discuss topics regarding policy and Crooks is offended, she doesn’t want to be held responsible for violating the contract.
SPU Attorney Kathleen Brennan said these types of stipulations are common in term agreements and said commissioners should “consider the term sheet as a whole.”
“But if I’m asked to sign this as an individual, I expect to be able to make comments as an individual,” Brennan said.
Commissioner Kathi Mocul said she supported the conditions of the agreement because “there’s always some give and take in these documents, so that’s why I’m seconding it.”
Crooks’ last day will be Sept. 8.
The commission also voted to discuss hiring an interim utilities manager with the MMUA, with Commissioner Brennan dissenting, saying she’d rather have the city manage the utility for the time being.
The proposed separation agreement with Crooks is the culmination of a series of discussions this past year revolving around the transparency of the utility. A recently-concluded investigation into the utility determined Crooks has been earning more than the state salary cap allows since 2017.
That investigation will be made public as soon as the commissioners send in their signatures for the term agreement.
On Aug. 13, the utilities commission voted to renegotiate Crooks’ current salary and pension plan, and directed its legal counsel to negotiate a repayment plan for the excess earnings Crooks has received the past three years.
Crooks will be expected to repay those excess earnings in three monthly installments, according to the term agreement.
The Shakopee Police Department has also received a complaint related to Crooks and the salary cap, and has opened an investigation, Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate last week.
Shakopee residents will have the option this November to completely dissolve SPUC through a ballot measure.