A legislative committee formed to investigate the number and cost of state employee settlements wants state agencies to keep such records for 20 years, up from the current five years.

Democratic Rep. Brad Hamlett presented his bill Tuesday to the Joint Select Committee for Settlement Accountability.

Having additional records could help lawmakers better analyze long-term trends and determine if any bump in settlements was related to the administration, something to do with the bureaucracy, or the leadership of an agency, Hamlett said. The committee did not vote on the bill.

The committee is scheduled to hear a bill on Monday to make more information on settlements available to the public. It would require the state to create a website to report the amount and reason for employee settlements and to prohibit non-disclosure agreements in employee settlement agreements with the state.

Senate President Scott Sales and former House Speaker Austin Knudsen appointed the committee last March to investigate why the state had paid more than $3 million in confidential employee settlements since 2013, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's first year in office.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas suggested last year that settlement amounts skyrocketed under Bullock's administration. Bullock officials have said accounting changes were made that year and the committee was created to make Bullock look bad. The 10-member committee has six Republicans, while most interim committees are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

The select committee met last April and asked state agencies for information about employee settlements dating back to 2003. Not all state agencies could produce complete records prior to 2013 because the Secretary of State's office set a five-year retention period for information about employee settlements.

Settlements paid out to employees of executive branch agencies — whose directors were appointed by Bullock — averaged just over $650,000 a year from 2013 to 2017. In 2018, the settlement amount fell to just under $200,000, according to information given to the committee in November.

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