LOUISIANA – A long-running lawsuit against the city of Louisiana and its ex-mayor apparently reached an end last month after the parties opted to reach a settlement.
Robert Jenne, an ex-city administrator who said he had been improperly dismissed from his position, had been awarded $800,000 by a lower court last year. Both parties appealed, raising the possibility of another round in a dispute that has continued for the better part of a decade.
Bart Niedner, the mayor when Jenne left his position with the city, told the Press-Journal the settlement was for less than the initial award, but said he could not provide further details about the terms of the settlement. Multiple phone calls to Jenne’s attorneys had not been returned as of press time.
When the initial award for Jenne was announced in May 2019, current city officials told the Press-Journal they expected the city’s insurance to cover the costs of the damages.
In early 2015, Jenne was removed from his position as city administrator by a 6-2 vote of Louisiana City Council. Niedner and council members said at the time that they had lost confident in Jenne after he failed to inform them about a time-sensitive financial situation involving the city’s water infrastructure, a claim Jenne disputed. Shortly afterward Jenne left his position as administrative police chief — and filed first a complaint with the Missouri Department of Labor saying he had been improperly forced out by the city.
His lawsuit specifically alleged age discrimination, retaliation and a violation of Missouri law governing the firing of police chiefs. Ultimately, a St. Charles jury — where the case had been moved — dismissed the charge of age discrimination, but found in favor of Jenne on the issue of retaliation. The judge in the case, St. Charles Circuit court judge Daniel Pelikan, also found in favor of Jenne on his firing from the police chief position, and awarded him almost $800,000.
The defendants in the case appealed, disputing several elements of the judge’s decision, including the award of “front pay” to Jenne if they opted not to rehire him. Jenne also appealed, arguing that the court should have allowed him to present evidence that other city employees had been discriminated against based on their age.
In a statement to the Press-Journal, Niedner said he was happy the city could move past the controversy.
“Mr. Jenne claimed two things: that we discriminated against him due to his age, and that we retaliated against him for filing the lawsuit,” Niedner wrote in a statement to the Press-Journal. “We were exonerated by the jury over discrimination, but the jury found in favor of Jenne regarding retaliation. I believe this was largely due to the inability of a St. Charles jury to empathize with a small town’s wage scale. We appealed the finding of retaliation and settled for less than the jury had awarded Mr. Jenne. I am pleased Mr. Jenne’s unfortunate and spurious claim of wrongdoing is finally behind us and the City can return to the more important matters we face.”