CMC, under pressure, releases Jensen’s ‘separation agreement’ |

CMC, under pressure, releases Jensen’s ‘separation agreement’

John ColsonPost IndependentAspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Colorado Mountain College, seeking to avoid a legal confrontation, released a document that shows the mechanics of the resignation of former college president Stan Jensen on Thursday.The document, labeled a “separation agreement and general release of claims” between the school and Jensen, provides no real insight into why Jensen either was asked to resign or resigned under his own initiative.And those details are not likely to be coming soon from Colorado Mountain College (CMC), said one official.The document provides little information not already known but does give insight into the negotiations that likely occurred before the separation was made public.”Agreements of that nature aren’t really intended to contain such information as ‘why,'” remarked CMC board president Glenn Davis of Avon. “And the confidentiality agreement is still a binding provision of the (separation) agreement.”The agreement specifies that neither side in the negotiations may publicly disclose details unless ordered by a court or under subpoena.Jensen had been president of the six-county college district since March 2008. He resigned on Dec. 27, 2012, during a telephone conference call with the college’s board of trustees, following weeks of negotiations.The agreement itself, everything about the negotiations between the school and Jensen, and any information as to why Jensen was leaving, were to be kept from the public as part of the agreement.In large part, the agreement is designed to prevent the disclosure of any details surrounding his departure and limit any future legal action by either side.College officials have steadfastly maintained that Jensen’s resignation had nothing to do with an ongoing dispute between the school and SourceGas, a natural-gas delivery company that last year was blocked by the college board from building a compression station on a natural-gas line that traverses college property.One provision in the separation agreement, however, requires Jensen to work with the college in its defense against a lawsuit filed by SourceGas, which is hoping that a judge will force the school to let the compression station be built.Under the agreement, Jensen received severance pay of $500,000, which is more than three times the amount he would have been entitled to under other circumstances, according to Tim Whitsitt, attorney for CMC.He was also paid half his annual salary, $99,400, for his six months of work in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, Whitsitt said.When disclosed in December the financial settlement prompted response across the region served by CMC ranging from outrage to bewilderment. Most criticism, which prompted numerous letters to newspapers across the area served by CMC, focused on the size of the settlement and that the deal was done behind closed doors.The Post Independent and its sister newspapers in Colorado Mountain News Media threatened to file suit over the college board’s decision to keep secret the negotiations leading up to the Dec. 27 resignation, and the terms of the separation agreement.In a Feb. 14 email releasing the separation agreement, CMC attorney Glenn Chadwick of the Beattie, Chadwick & Houpt law firm, declared, “By releasing this agreement, CMC does not acknowledge that it is obligated to do so” by the threatened lawsuit.But the release of the separation agreement, according to the newspaper group’s attorney, was important because it indicated CMC recognized its obligation under state law.”The disclosure of the separation agreement fulfills the purpose of the Open Records Act – to allow citizens to monitor and assess the official conduct of governmental actors,” said attorney Steven D. Zansberg, of the law firm Levine Sullivan Koch and Schultz LLP in Denver. “This is especially true whenever the expenditure of public funds is involved; the public is entitled to know not only the amount of public funds expended, but also the reasons why those funds were expended.”

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