CLAYTON • St. Louis County has paid a $25,000 settlement, back pay and legal bills to a veteran prosecutor served with termination papers by Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell on his second day in office.
Kathi Alizadeh, a longtime ally of Bell’s predecessor, Robert McCulloch, in 2014 guided the presentation of evidence to the grand jury that declined to indict a Ferguson police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.
She was one of three prosecutors given termination letters by Bell on Jan. 2. Alizadeh had worked for the office since May 1988, earning about $135,000 a year.
Alizadeh provided the Post-Dispatch a copy of her settlement, which stipulates that she won’t sue the county over Bell’s attempt to fire her. She instead agreed to resign Jan. 31 in exchange for the $25,000 payout, full pay through the end of January and $3,000 toward her legal fees.
“I think they totally recognized that there were no grounds for me to be terminated,” Alizadeh told the Post-Dispatch. “I kind of wanted this to be done. I didn’t want to go back to the office. I also wanted him to know you can’t just do this to people.”
Alizadeh said she also received paid time off and said the settlement doesn’t affect her pension. The agreement withdrew Bell’s termination letter and replaced it with a letter thanking Alizadeh for her service.
The termination letter cited several “generalized statements” to establish grounds to fire her, Alizadeh said. She said she then requested a hearing to clarify Bell’s reasons, but negotiated the settlement before getting a hearing.
“I had no idea what they were talking about,” she said of Bell’s reasons. “Obviously the county counselor’s office found there weren’t grounds because they withdrew the letter and paid me.”
She expects Bell wanted her gone “to appease his base” over her role in the 2014 grand jury that declined to indict a Ferguson police officer as a compromise if Bell decides he won’t reopen the controversial case.
Bell has not announced whether he intends to reopen the case.
Bell was sworn in Jan. 1 after defeating McCulloch last year in the Democratic primary.