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State OK’s $225K deal with Black Iowa judge

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DES MOINES — A Black administrative judge in Iowa who asserted she was fired in 2017 because of her race — and after successfully suing the state is in the process of being reinstated — has also agreed to a $225,000 settlement with the state.

The State Appeal Board approved the settlement with Renee Sneitzer, of Cedar Rapids, at its regular meeting Monday.

Sneitzer had been working for 10 years as an administrative law judge for the Iowa Department of Corrections’ Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville when, in 2017, she was fired for not adhering to a supervisor’s orders, according to court documents. Sneitzer challenged her firing, saying she faced discrimination and was fired because of her race.

In April, an administrative law judge ruled the state corrections department did not prove just cause for Sneitzer’s firing, and ordered she be reinstated with back pay. The Iowa Public Employment Relations Board concurred with and adopted the judge’s findings, also ordering the state to reinstate Sneitzer.

In late July, the parties agreed to the $225,000 settlement; roughly $134,000 will go to Sneitzer and the remaining $91,000 to her attorneys.

According to the terms of the settlement, detailed in a July 22 letter from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to the State Appeal Board, the agreement is not to be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of the state or the parties named in the lawsuit. The appeal board approved the settlement without discussion Monday.

According to court documents, the corrections department’s general counsel and inspector general Michael Savala fired Sneitzer in 2017, alleging that she “continued to disregard multiple supervisory directives.”

Sneitzer responded, during a department investigation conducted by Savala and later in court documents, that Savala’s actions were “harassing, discriminatory, and retaliatory.”

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