[§91-8.5]  Mediation in contested cases.  (a)  An agency may encourage parties to a contested case hearing under this chapter to participate in mediation prior to the hearing subject to conditions imposed by the agency in rules adopted in accordance with this chapter.  The agency may suspend all further proceedings in the contested case pending the outcome of the mediation.

     (b)  No mediation period under this section shall exceed thirty days from the date the case is referred to mediation, unless otherwise extended by the agency.

     (c)  The parties may jointly select a person to conduct the mediation.  If the parties are unable to jointly select a mediator within ten days of the referral to mediation, the agency shall select the mediator.  All costs of the mediation shall be borne equally by the parties unless otherwise agreed, ordered by the agency, or provided by law.

     (d)  No mediation statements or settlement offers tendered shall be admitted into any subsequent proceedings involving the case, including the contested case hearing or a court proceeding.

     (e)  No preparatory meetings, briefings, or mediation sessions under this section shall constitute a meeting under section 92-2.  Any mediator notes under this section shall be exempt from section 92-21 and chapter 92F.  Section 91-10 shall not apply to mediation proceedings. [L 2003, c 76, §1]