KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The City of Overland Park on Friday released a separation agreement it reached in 2018 with one of its police officers who shot and killed 17-year-old John Albers.
The release of the agreement came a day after a Johnson County, Kansas, District Court judge ruled in a civil case that the agreement should be released under the Kansas Open Records Act.
The order was part of a lawsuit filed by The Kansas City Star against the City of Overland Park, claiming the agreement should be a public record.
The officer, Clayton Jenison, shot and killed Albers at his parents’ Overland Park Home on Jan. 20, 2018.
The agreement released Friday shows that the city and Jenison reached the separation agreement less than a month later on Feb. 16, 2018.
Jenison received $70,000 severance, news of which was first reported in June 2020.
However, the release of the agreement brought to light a detail not previously known, which is that the police department agreed to report to the state's police licensing organization that Jenison had resigned voluntarily.
When an officer leaves or is terminated from a department, the agency is required to submit a form to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training, also known as CPOST.
According to Jenison's severance deal, the police department agreed to "report Employee's separation to CPOST as voluntary resignation under ordinary circumstances and describe it as being for personal reasons."
That line in the document stopped Sheila Albers, John's mother, in her tracks.
"There was nothing ordinary about Jenison's exit from the Overland Park Police Department, and he didn't voluntarily resign. We know that," Albers said Friday.
She pointed to a question and answer document released by the city on Friday.
That document poses the question: Did Officer Jenison approach the city or did the city initiate the deal?
In its response, the city said "with no just cause to terminate Officer Jenison, the City approached Jenison through his attorney to initiate a discussion. Ultimately, the terms were mutually negotiated."
Sheila Albers argues Jenison's departure should have been marked "involuntary negotiated resignation," which specifies that an officer was offered the opportunity to resign to avoid disciplinary or legal action.
"He only resigned because the city approached him and made it worth his while to leave with cash and a promise that he could keep his law enforcement license," she said.
The city argues it marked his departure as voluntary because Jenison was not being investigated when he entered into the agreement.
"The City was not contemplating potential disciplinary or adverse employment action because it had no basis for such action; and the City was not contemplating and had no knowledge that any other agency was contemplating any investigative, disciplinary or legal actions against Officer Jenison when he resigned," a spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
The agreement was entered into on Feb. 15, which was after the DA informed police his office had concluded its investigation into the shooting. It was also after OPPD Chief Frank Donchez had reviewed an internal affairs report and determined there was no violation of law or policy.
The 41 Action News Investigative Team reached out to CPOST to ask if it is typical for employers to discuss with employees how that separation form will be filled out. The executive director, who did not comment specifically on this case, said every agency handles it differently and that separation agreements are not in CPOST's purview.
The I-Team also asked if CPOST investigated both the shooting and the resignation terms in the Jenison case.
"KSCPOST does not disclose if we have or have not conducted investigations of officers for violations of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Act," Executive Directory Gary Steed wrote in an email to 41 Action News.
Based on a review of the CPOST website, no disciplinary action was taken against Officer Clayton Jenison.
In its question and answer document, the city wrote that CPOST did begin an investigation into Jenison's resignation on Dec. 4, 2019, but it was closed on March 4, 2020 by the commission's investigative committee with no further action.
In that document, the city also said while it didn’t have any legal basis to fire Jenison, city officials, including Police Chief Frank Donchez, felt it was in the “best interest of the community for him to voluntarily resign” because he “would not have been able to continue serving the community effectively.”
Albers said she feels the agreement is evidence of a backroom deal to sweep police misconduct under the rug.
"When we have an officer that makes an egregious mistake, that needs to be dealt with head-on, in a honest way," she said, "Because when we don't do that, we jeopardize public safety, and we also jeopardize the profession of policing, because we're continuing to hold on to people who probably shouldn't be police officers."
As part of Friday’s release, the city admitted council members were made aware of the separation agreement in April 2018 and June 2020, but the city did not speak directly with the Albers family about the agreement, citing that it was a personnel matter and that they had received notice of a potential legal filing.
In Thursday’s ruling on the release of the document, Judge Rhonda K. Mason ruled the agreement between Jenison and the city constituted an “employment related contract or agreement” that is subject to disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act and must be disclosed.
A review of the case by the Johnson County District Attorney’s office concluded that Jenison did not commit any crimes in the killing.
Despite the reviews, the city felt Jenison was no longer able to serve as an officer.
In addition to the lawsuit filed by The Kansas City Star, 41 Action News also filed a civil suit against Overland Park for the full release of the report completed by the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office’s Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team.
Proceedings in that case are ongoing.