Emotions ran high Tuesday night at the Mendota Heights City Council meeting as a couple of dozen people begged the council not to fire police Sgt. Bobby Lambert.
Dozens more packed the council chambers, spilling out into the hall with signs supporting Lambert, a 20-year-veteran of the force who was put on paid administrative leave in February pending an internal-affairs investigation.
But in the end, the council voted 4-1 to fire Lambert, effective Wednesday.
Council Member Ultan Duggan made a motion not to fire him, but no second was forthcoming.
Council Member Steve Norton, who made the motion to fire Lambert, said, "There is more to the story," but added that he couldn't say more because of the investigation.
Lambert said he plans to sue the city. "I just feel taken advantage of," he said.
Lambert, who was promoted to sergeant on June 13, was still in his 12-month probationary period for that post. Under the contract between the city and his union, he could be "terminated at the sole discretion of the employer," said a memo to the council.
Joe Ditsch, Lambert's union representative, said he could not discuss the complaint that led to Lambert's February suspension, but said it was not severe enough to warrant termination.
Mayor Sandra Krebsbach said independent investigators looked into an outside complaint about Lambert. Duggan said council members were advised to demote or terminate him, or to ask for his resignation.
Lambert has claimed that the move to fire him was in retaliation for his 2012 demand that police investigate the apparent theft of a picnic table by another officer or officers.
That links him with officer Scott Patrick, who months before being killed in the line of duty filed a whistleblower suit against the city and its police chief alleging retaliation for reporting two officers he said stole the table. His complaint, filed in 2014, accused Chief Michael Aschenbrener of retaliating against him for reporting the theft in 2008.
"My brother Scott Patrick was in the process of telling his story," Lambert told the council. "I'm prepared to tell mine."