Minneapolis officers' suit goes to judge

  • Article by: RANDY FURST
  • Star Tribune
  • July 26, 2012 - 8:59 PM

Testimony ended Thursday in a nine-day civil trial in Hennepin County District Court in which two Minneapolis police officers claim they were reassigned in retribution for their role in a 2007 investigation into police corruption.

Lt. Andrew Smith and Sgt. Patrick King are seeking $1.2 million from the city, alleging in a suit that their reputations were ruined after they were suspended for several hours, then transferred out of the Violent Offender Task Force on Feb. 14, 2011.

Smith headed the unit and King was a supervisor there.

Attorney Patrick Burns, lawyer for the officers, and Tim Skarda, an assistant city attorney for Minneapolis, rested their case before Judge Philip Carruthers, who is expected to issue a decision this fall. Both sides had waived a jury trial.

Police Chief Tim Dolan, who ordered the transfers of Smith and King, was briefly cross-examined Thursday. Dolan defended the transfers on Wednesday, denying that they were for retribution or that the officers' careers were damaged. He said, however, that he regretted the way he handled the transfers.

Skarda made a motion Thursday asking Carruthers to dismiss the case, filed under a state whistleblower statute, on grounds Smith and King were not whistleblowers. In an interview, Skarda said he made his case that Dolan was aware of potential retaliation by officers, but transferred King and Smith because of the breakdown in relationships between them and the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI.

Burns said in an interview that the two officers qualify as whistleblowers under state case law. "I think we showed retaliation occurred," he said. He said testimony showed how the retaliation had ramped up by the department after his clients become involved in the corruption investigation.

As a result of the probe, former Minneapolis officer Mike Roberts went to federal prison for a year for public corruption and tax evasion.

The two lawyers will submit written closing arguments by Aug. 13, and give Carruthers proposed "findings of fact and conclusions of law" by Aug. 31. Carruthers then has up to 90 days to issue his decision.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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