A former Calgary Police Service lawyer has settled a lawsuit with the organization and the city over a contested severance agreement worth more than $500,000.
A consent order filed Sunday, containing an amended statement of defence, withdrew various allegations against former CPS general counsel Stephanie Morson. The defendants, which included the CPS, Chief Mark Neufeld and the City of Calgary, “expressed regret . . . for the negative impacts” those allegations caused.
Morson sued the city, CPS and Neufeld in December 2019 after the police service refused to honour the agreement she reached with former police chief Roger Chaffin in 2018.
Morson remained employed by CPS at the time, but was on disability leave since September 2018 because “multiple false allegations” created an “intolerable working environment” for her, according to her statement of claim.
The disputed severance agreement would have seen the police service top up her disability payments until she was cleared for work, at which point Morson would leave the service and receive three payments of $180,000.
Because the CPS refused to honour the arrangement, she also sought $180,000 in general damages for sexual harassment and loss of reputation she claimed she suffered during her employment.
Morson’s lawyer, Clarke Hunter, said Monday his client was no longer employed by CPS. He declined to provide details of the settlement, citing confidentiality.
The city’s original statement of defence, filed in January, called Morson’s request for damages “excessive” and “unreasonable.”
It also called the severance agreement in question “unconscionable and unenforceable,” referring to certain terms within it as “unjustified” and “extravagant.”
The city had claimed Chaffin became “close personal friends” with Morson while he was a deputy chief in 2015.
Eight months after Chaffin became Calgary’s police chief in October of that year, Morson became general counsel for the police service. The city had argued Morson and Chaffin “collaborated . . . in a joint strategy for an improper purpose and using improper means to provide substantial and unjustified compensation.”
It stated the severance agreement wasn’t enforceable because Chaffin did not have the authority to enter it, and it was done without the consent of the police service, the police commission and the city.
The city has since amended its position to claim the disputed agreement is “unenforceable and subject to rescission.”
Morson’s response denied her relationship with Chaffin was close , saying they had a good working relationship “but did not socialize together outside the context of the workplace.”
In its amended statement of defence, the city updated its position to state that Morson and Chaffin were “workplace colleagues.”
It withdrew its claim that Morson “was in an irreconcilable and serious conflict of interest, and was involved in self-dealing,” and that she and Chaffin had breached their duties to the CPS and the city.
The CPS filed its own statement of defence in January, describing the severance package as “illegitimate” and a “sham” orchestrated by Morson and Chaffin.
A modified statement of defence filed Sunday on behalf of Neufeld and the CPS removed those allegations, as well as a claim that the agreement between Morson and Chaffin “was never a bona fide agreement negotiated . . . in good faith.”
It also withdrew the CPS’ claim that Morson “was in a clear conflict of interest.”
In a statement to Postmedia, Morson called the legal dealings an “unfortunate matter.”
“I am pleased to have achieved a satisfactory resolution of the Action,” she said in an email.
“After I filed Replies and the parties exchanged relevant documents and engaged in questioning of witnesses under oath, the CPS and the City of Calgary have withdrawn the allegations that I acted in a conflict of interest or conducted myself unlawfully or unprofessionally in any way. The terms of the settlement are otherwise confidential and will not be subject to further comment.”
CPS said in a statement it was “pleased to have achieved a satisfactory resolution.”
“After Ms. Morson filed Replies and the parties exchanged relevant documents and engaged in questioning of witnesses under oath, the CPS and the City of Calgary have withdrawn the allegations that Ms. Morson acted in a conflict of interest or conducted herself unlawfully or unprofessionally in any way,” the police service stated.
“The terms of the settlement are otherwise confidential and will not be subject to further comment.”