Judge orders Minneapolis City Hall guards rehired, with back pay

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2011 - 9:20 AM

The four, their jobs outsourced, used a 1903 law to win and be reinstated in Minneapolis with back pay.

It turns out you can beat City Hall -- or at least the board that runs it.

Four fired security guards at Minneapolis City Hall triumphed over some of the city's most powerful pols in a federal court ruling disclosed Wednesday that their jobs were illegally outsourced.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered the city and Hennepin County to rehire the four guards and give them more than seven months of back pay or to appear in court to argue why that shouldn't happen. The estimated back pay amounts to $127,371, or $165,000 if benefits are included.

"I feel exonerated. I really do," said one of the fired guards, Brian Kaibel.

City Hall is run by the Municipal Building Commission, whose members are Hennepin County Board Chairman Mike Opat, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, City Council Member Lisa Goodman and county Commissioner Mark Stenglein.

In February, the commission fired seven security guards and Kaibel, a supervisor, effective March 12. They were replaced with county guards and private security staff who already patrol nearby county buildings. It said that would streamline security.

Attorney Judy Schermer argued that the firings were prohibited under a 1903 law adopted as a civil service reform intended to end a spoils system in which incoming politicians hired City Hall workers from among their political supporters. That law now gives employees who have worked for the commission for six months tenure in their jobs.

That means that the guards couldn't be removed except for good cause, without written charges and without a hearing, the judge ruled. She didn't buy the city and county argument that the jobs were eliminated, which they said exempts the firings from the law, because the duties were assumed by county security.

Besides Kaibel, the other guards who fought the firings are Daniel Dotse, Garfield Campbell and Rick Iskierka. Dotse and Campbell applied for county security officer positions but were not hired. Another guard, who was less than a year from being eligible for a pension, got another city job. The three others who were fired chose not to join the suit.

Kaibel said an attorney for the four last summer made an offer that would have allowed the commission to settle for less money.

Opat, the only commission member who could be reached Wednesday, said he didn't see a reason to settle. City and county lawyers said their clients haven't decided how to respond.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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