Months after he was placed on leave amid allegations that he tampered with an investigation, the embattled police chief of Inver Grove Heights is expected to resign, pending the City Council's signoff.
Larry Stanger had been on paid administrative leave since April. He was under criminal investigation for allegedly leaking information to a suspect about a pending search warrant in a theft investigation. Another law enforcement agency contacted city staff about Stanger's alleged involvement in a case his detectives had been working on.
The Scott County attorney's office reviewed the allegations for possible charges of misconduct by a public official or a data practices violation. In August, County Attorney Ron Hocevar declined to file charges because of insufficient evidence.
Inver Grove Heights city officials also hired a law firm to determine whether Stanger violated any city policies, procedures or codes. The report has not been made public. Stanger couldn't be reached for comment.
Stanger is the third metro top cop to resign in the past week. Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom announced last week that he will leave his post to lead a University of Oxford study on changing hiring practices to increase trust in police. Mendota Heights Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener also stepped down after 13 years following a tumultuous decade that included the July 2014 line-of-duty shooting death of officer Scott Patrick, who earlier that year filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the department, as well as three internal investigations of officers for various misconduct over the past 12 months.
The City Council was expected to vote on Stanger's separation packages, which includes his resignation, on Monday, said City Administrator Joe Lynch. He and City Attorney Tim Kuntz recommended approval.
The city and Stanger have 15 days to rescind the agreement. After the 15 days, reports about the criminal and internal investigations will be made public. Lynch said. He wouldn't comment on the either report.
If the package is approved, Stanger's resignation will be effective immediately. He will be on paid leave until Jan. 2, then use accrued vacation and sick leave until his April 30 resignation.
Stanger had been with the department since 1989 and was named the city's top cop in 2012. His salary this year was $128,000. Lt. Sean Folmar has been serving as interim chief.
According to investigative documents, Steven Hirman told an officer that Stanger had alerted him to a search of his Prescott, Wis., auto detailing shop. Both men said in interviews with investigators that their sons are longtime friends.
Inver Grove Heights police searched Hirman's shop on Feb. 25 in collaboration with the Prescott Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff's Office. GPS tracking of suspects connected to stolen construction equipment had led Inver Grove investigators to the shop, and they expected to find stolen vehicles there.
When they arrived, they found illicit drugs including methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and guns, but not the equipment they were looking for. Hirman arrived during the search and was arrested on suspicion of drug possession. He was charged in February.
In an interview with Scott County investigators, the Prescott patrol sergeant who transported Hirman to jail recalled Hirman saying, "I knew this was coming." When the patrol sergeant asked Hirman to elaborate, he responded that Stanger "told me you guys were doin' a warrant on my place."
After its investigation of Stanger, the Scott County Sheriff's Office requested a review of formal charges of public corruption and violation of data privacy laws. The case was referred to Scott County to avoid a conflict of interest.
Stanger regularly asked for updates about the case, officers said, and expressed wanting to participate in the Feb. 25 search — things that didn't typically happen, they said. "Generally the chief doesn't ask questions," one officer said. "He generally talks about the weather."
At one point, officers recalled, Stanger told them that his son could check out the auto shop in advance of the search — something officers told him was "a horrible idea."
Stanger denied asking his staff about the search warrant. He did tell investigators that he'd offered to have his son visit the auto shop.
"I didn't volunteer him. I didn't say 'He will do this,' " Stanger said. "I said, 'This is an option.' "
Although officers didn't let Stanger's son help with the investigation, documents show that he may have known details about the theft case.