Two former deputies who are suing Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom for alleged retaliation were turned down by several other agencies in previous job hunts, didn’t have the support of their own supervisors and one failed two different psychiatric evaluations, according to evidence presented in court Tuesday.
Joseph Miller and Alexander Graham allege in a federal lawsuit that Bostrom had them fired in February 2011 because they worked on the re-election campaign of incumbent Bob Fletcher, who lost to Bostrom in November 2010. Fletcher hired the men after he lost the race that ended his 16-year reign in the office.
Bostrom’s attorney, Charles Nauen, hammered hard on Miller’s and Graham’s lackluster track record, while their attorney, Mark Gehan, focused on how the firings took them by surprise and upended their career dreams.
Gehan didn’t dive deeply into his clients’ reasoning or evidence that Bostrom acted in retaliation, beyond noting that Bostrom had seen them working on Fletcher’s campaign.
Attorneys for Bostrom and the county have previously said that the men were terminated due to facts uncovered in background checks and not for political reasons.
Nauen presented evidence in court showing that Miller, 30, failed the Ramsey County sheriff’s psychiatric evaluation in 2009 and in early 2010, and was found to have “below average” vocabulary and verbal skills. In December 2010, Miller underwent a third psychiatric evaluation after Fletcher gave him a conditional job offer, and was “marginally recommended” for hire despite “some concerns that might limit effectiveness,” according to the evaluation presented in court.
A background check dated Jan. 20, 2011, raised “multiple red flags” about Miller, including a disorderly conduct citation in 2006 and a 2008 alleged drunken bar fight between Miller, his friend and bar staff. Miller and his friend were asked to leave because they were intoxicated and grabbing a female worker’s buttocks, according to a police report presented in court.
“I had been drinking to the level of intoxication, yes,” Miller said.
Miller, who was working as a community service officer for the county, allegedly identified himself as a sheriff’s deputy during the Maplewood incident. A police report shows that his blood alcohol content at the time was 0.289. He was not convicted in either case.
Miller now works as an investigative assistant in Ramsey County, helping police departments with criminal investigations.
Graham, 26, worked in the Ramsey County jail temporarily as a community service officer and multiple supervisors did not recommend he continue his job because he had “way too many issues with inmates,” lacked professionalism and was “pimping up inmates,” which is when an officer intentionally agitates inmates.
Graham failed background checks in Kanabec County and Coon Rapids.
“You’re not claiming that politics or Sheriff Bostrom are the reasons for failing these two backgrounds?” Nauen asked.
“Yes,” Graham said, affirming that he was not.
The Kanabec County review showed that a supervisor described Graham as “manipulative,” “untrustworthy” and “immature.”
The men said they were given little reason for their terminations, which they testified have caused them humiliation, financial strain and lost job opportunities.
“What do you intend to do with the rest of your life if you can’t become a police officer?” Gehan asked.
“I try not to think about that,” Graham said.
Testimony is expected to continue through Thursday.