HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse gave the City’s former top attorney 45-thousand dollars when she quit, without letting anyone know why.
The 22News I-Team made a public records request for that information. We went through more than 200 emails and we’re really not satisfied with what we got back; a lot of redacted or blacked out information.
There weren’t any arguments or accusations in the emails. Although, Mayor Morse and former City Solicitor Heather Egan had some phone conversations to discuss a “host of issues” in early April.
In the middle of April they had a private meeting where Egan told Morse she would take a leave of absence, she told the staff on April 17th, and she resigned officially April 29th.
Mayor Morse says he did nothing wrong. “The process our administration took to embark on this settlement agreement was legal. The council may be interested in reforming City ordinances to make sure these types of agreements have to go before the council in the future.”
Morse told 22News he doesn’t have to say why he’s protected by employee confidentiality to protect the city. “I have explained why to avoid future litigation against the city. It’s a settlement like any other potential lawsuit or lawsuit against the city.”
The emails do reveal Egan did tell new law department employees she was not going to be there sometime when they were hired at the end of March.
Mayor Morse submitted a letter to the City Council and it will be read to all city councilors Tuesday night at their meeting at 7 o’clock.
22News obtained a copy of that letter from the Mayor saying he misspoke about an outside’s law firm’s role in this settlement.
The letter summarizes what 22News found out Monday night at a hearing that lasted several hours. Mayor Morse says Heather Egan never had any contact with attorneys from Sullivan, Hayes and Quinn, and he clarifies that the law firm represented the City of Holyoke during the settlement negotiation, not Egan.
Morse explained all this Monday night to the City Council Finance Committee. He is still standing firm by his statement, that he did what he thought was best for the city when he agreed to pay Egan $45,000.
However, City Council President Kevin Jourdain said he’s not satisfied with that answer. “I think we should probably have an independent review. Maybe through the inspector general’s office. I think we should continue our discussions around that.”
City Council President Jourdain added that taxpayers must know why their Mayor is paying someone who left her job. “Probably have an independent review maybe through the Inspector General’s office. Transparency is always at issue here and the public has the right to know where their money’s going.”
According to the document, Egan could be eligible for unemployment benefits, but with blacked out sections, the agreement does not reveal to us, why this settlement was necessary. The Mayor says it’s to avoid future lawsuits against the city.