Following an investigation that substantiated some allegations made in a workplace harassment claim against former Weedsport Public Works Superintendent James Saroodis, the village allowed Saroodis to resign from his job of 23 years with several weeks of continued pay, health insurance and additional monetary and professional benefits.
On Tuesday, the village released Saroodis' voluntary separation and resignation agreement — officially approved on April 24 during a special meeting — in response to The Citizen's Freedom of Information Law request.
The agreement took place after a village DPW employee, Carson DiRisio, 21, filed a harassment and workplace violance claim against James, the son of Mayor Jean Saroodis. The complaint outlined various forms of physical and verbal abuse and sexual harassment, which prompted the village to hire the Syracuse-based Bond, Schoeneck & King law firm to conduct a third-party investigation of the situation.
Legal bills show the investigation report was finalized by attorney Caroline Westover on Feb. 7. A special meeting was called in the village on Feb. 8 with attorney Colin Leonard, which resulted in James being placed on paid leave commencing Feb. 9, meeting minutes indicate. Minutes also say Mayor Saroodis defied Leonard's advice by refusing to recuse herself from the matter.
The village has denied The Citizen's FOIL requests to obtain the attorney's investigation report, asserting that the records are "privileged as both attorney-client and attorney work-product material." The state Committee on Open Government says the blanket denial of the records violates numerous court precedents.
Through his wife and his attorney, James has denied DiRisio's allegations. DiRisio, however, received a letter from the village that provided a general overview of the investigation stating that her "complaint resulted in a conclusion that certain of (her) allegations could be substantiated, some could not be substantiated and others could be partially substantiated." The letter indicated James' leave and his resignation was connected to the results of the investigation.
Even though certain allegations against James were found to be true, the deal with the village states that he did not make any admission of wrongdoing. It also prevents village officials and Saroodis from discussing the agreement publicly.
Within the agreement itself, its stated purpose is to resolve a "dispute" regarding the continuation of James' employment. It said that in exchange for the resignation, the village would not bring "disciplinary charges against Mr. Saroodis."
The agreement details a continuation of regular pay through June 29, amounting to $11,923, plus continued health insurance benefits; payment of all accrued but unused vacation and personal days, amounting to $5,962. In addition, the village agreed to not contest James' receipt of unemployment benefits if he chooses to apply and to provide a "neutral reference if contacted by any (of James') prospective employers."
Other than the settlement outlined in the agreement, it states that James will not receive any additional "payment or benefit from the village of any kind." He agreed not to seek employment from the village in the future.
By signing the agreement, James "waived any right he may have had to bring a lawsuit" against the village and "no party admits to engaging in any unlawful act or other wrongdoing."
Another condition of the agreement was not to "divulge the contents hereof to any outside party, except ... as may be required by law." Mayor Saroodis, however, told The Citizen on May 3 that James had given her a copy of the resignation agreement.
At the time, Mayor Saroodis claimed that the agreement said the allegations were "unfounded."
While the agreement does say no party admits to unlawful acts, the agreement itself mentions nothing of DiRiso's harassment complaint, the allegations against James, nor the involvement of attorneys, which cost the village roughly $30,000 for the months of December to April.