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Settlement reached with fired Beltrami County deputy

A settlement approved Tuesday restores a terminated Beltrami County deputy to his post albeit only to allow him to resign.

Former Deputy Sgt. Steven Page was terminated by Sheriff Phil Hodapp on June 17 by letter. The next day, Page filed a grievance through his union, Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc., in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement with the county.

The union argued that there was not just cause for the firing, and that proper procedure hadn't been followed of putting Page on leave while an investigation was held on any allegations.

Tuesday afternoon commissioners met for nearly an hour in closed session with County Attorney Tim Faver and then put on Tuesday evening's regular agenda a settlement agreement and release and waiver of all claims.

The measure passed 4-1 on a roll-call vote with Commissioner Jim Heltzer dissenting. He made no comment on his vote.

In fact, the settlement agreement places Hopdapp's termination letter and any data gathered on the allegations into a separate file treated by state law as private data.

In asking for a motion and a second for the settlement agreement, Chairman Joe Vene said that there will be no discussion as "this cannot be discussed outside the confines of the closed session."

The agreement reinstates Page and places him on an authorized personal leave of absence without pay effective June 17 through March 31. All benefits and privileges ended as of June 17.

"Page hereby agrees to to irrevocably resign from employment with the county effective March 31," states the settlement agreement. "Page agrees never to seek or accept employment with the county in any capacity at any time in the future."

In full settlement of all claims and potential claims arising out of the case, the county agreed to pay Page $20,000 as a lump-sum payment, subject to tax withholding and payment of Medicare taxes by both Page and the county.

The county will also return Page's badge to him.

"The letter of termination issued by the county to Page dated June 17, 2010, together with the data documenting the basis for the discharge, including the investigation of the allegations against Page, shall be removed from Page's personnel file and retained in a separate file," the agreement states.

"The letter of termination and the data documenting the basis for the discharge will be treated as private data on individuals, and private data on Page may only be released on the written authorization signed by Page authorizing the release of private data," the agreement states.

The agreement states that Page and the union agree to bring no further claims involving the case.