Timothy Rehak, part of an FBI probe, was rebuked twice before joining the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher hired former St. Paul police officer Timothy Rehak as an inspector in February, five months after Rehak was twice reprimanded -- once for hindering an investigation against Rehak's son and once for endangering the life of an informant, according to documents obtained by the Star Tribune.
Rehak, who is a key figure in an FBI corruption investigation, was suspended for 10 days in July 2006 by St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington following an internal affairs investigation, documents from the department's investigation show. The reprimands came in September 2006.
On Friday, Fletcher said he knew about the findings against Rehak before he hired him, though he said he did not know about the FBI investigation.
Fletcher defended the hire, saying he believed that in the informant case, Rehak had been caught in a bureaucratic tangle with St. Paul police. And in the other case, Rehak had been defending his son as a parent, not using his influence as an officer, Fletcher said. He described Rehak as a "top cop" with a 20-year record of putting gang members and drug dealers behind bars.
"There are street cops and pencil pushers," Fletcher said Friday. "Tim is a street cop."
Rehak could not be reached for comment Friday.
A longtime friend and campaign supporter of Fletcher's, Rehak has been on administrative leave since June.
Earlier this month, Harrington sent out a department-wide bulletin ordering his officers to cooperate with the FBI as it winds down its public corruption investigation. The investigation, which began in 2004, targets Fletcher's public information officer, Mark Naylon.
"The FBI is completing its corruption investigation involving two Ramsey County Sheriff employees," Harrington said in the bulletin. "... I have been in contact with the FBI and they assured me that anyone from our department who they are interested in talking to is as a witness, not a suspect. It is my expectation we will cooperate fully with the investigation."
Throughout 2003 and into 2004, federal and local authorities had been suspicious that Naylon -- Fletcher's public information officer and the best man in the sheriff's 2004 wedding -- was tipping off criminals to undercover investigations. As a result, agents decided to conduct an integrity test.
In fall 2004, FBI agents secretly videotaped Rehak and Naylon -- also now on administrative leave from the Sheriff's Office -- pocketing $6,000 in marked cash in a St. Paul hotel room. More than $13,000 in alleged drug money had been planted in the room by authorities, who then used an informant to tip off Naylon as to what was hidden in the room.
The videotape shows that when a St. Paul officer who was accompanying Rehak and Naylon went into the hotel room's bathroom, the pair opened the bag and took the money, according to sources with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Documents later filed in the Sheriff's Office listing the amount of money recovered appeared to have been altered in order to show that all the money had been recovered, property room records show.
Naylon's attorney, Paul Rogosheske, has repeatedly said that his client is innocent.
Last summer, Ramsey County deputies appeared before a federal grand jury. Harrington's bulletin is the latest indication that the investigation is still active.
One of Harrington's letters of reprimand states that Rehak failed to cooperate with Forest Lake police, who were investigating Rehak's son's on possession of drug paraphernalia, a fake pistol and brass knuckles -- items found in a car parked at Forest Lake High School. "You used your influence as a St. Paul officer on officials in the Forest Lake School District to lessen the level of discipline you anticipated was about to be given to your son," Harrington wrote. "This case has brought disgrace to the St. Paul Police Department through your actions."
Of the other case, Harrington wrote that Rehak mishandled evidence and placed a confidential informant in danger. Rehak had ordered the informant, who was under the control of another officer, to go into a house to recover about 20 precious stones. After the stones were put in the property room, Rehak entered the informant's name into a computer system, exposing his identity and endangering him, Harrington wrote.
Paul McEnroe 612-673-1745