Medina city manager to leave post following bias verdict

By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Medina City Manager Donna Hanson (center) during a city council meeting in April. (Photo by Charles Lam/NWAW)

After a two-year trial that ended with a $2 million dollar verdict for former Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen, Donna Hanson will be ending her tenure as Medina city manager on July 14.

The Medina City Council voted 5 to 1 during a June 26 special session to give Mayor Michael Luis the authority to sign a separation agreement with Hanson. According to the city attorney, Hanson will receive roughly 14 months of severance pay. The city will not release the full agreement until it is signed by all parties. Hanson was scheduled to make $139,500 in 2013.

The city has a yearly annual revenue of roughly $5 million, according to budget documents.

“I’m fully for accepting the resignation of the city manager, but I felt that the terms are not beneficial to the city,” said Medina City Councilmember David Lee, the sole councilmember to vote no in a phone interview with the Asian Weekly.

City officials have called the separation mutually agreed upon.

In March of this year, a federal jury found that Chen’s dismissal as the police chief of Medina due to alleged misconduct was racially motivated. The jury awarded Chen $285,000 in back pay, $1.65 million tied to Chen’s inability to find work due to his tarnished image, and $100,000 in emotional damages. The jury also ruled that Hanson must pay Chen $25,000 for her role in the firings. At the time of his release, Chen was the only non-white department head in Medina.

Chen’s dismissal angered some of the residents of Medina. Shortly after his initial dismissal, some Medina community members presented the city council with a petition signed by roughly 100 Medina and Hunts Points residents calling for his reinstatement and the firing of Donna Hanson. According to the 2010 census, Medina has a population of 2,969. Hunts Point, which contracts the Medina Police Department, has a population of 394.

Following the jury verdict in March, the Medina City Council once again saw full chambers. Some gave the city council their backing while others asked for no appeal.

Four seats on the Medina City Council are up for election in 2013. Of the six candidates vying for them, three — Jennifer Garone, Alex Morcos, and James Girardot — have criticized the city council’s handling of the case.

The Chen case is not yet closed as it is still going through post-trial motions. Judge Thomas S. Zilly will hear arguments on whether or not to allow a retrial on July 10.
Chen declined to comment. (end)

Charles Lam can be reached at charles@nwasianweekly.com.

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