Former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher testified Thursday that it's common practice to allow probationary employees with no major performance problems to resign instead of firing them, contrary to steps his successor took with two men Fletcher hired.

Former deputies Alexander Graham, 26, and Joseph Miller, 30, are suing Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom in federal court alleging that his administration fired them in retaliation for their work on Fletcher's reelection campaign.

The men were hired by Fletcher in late 2010 after he lost the election to Bostrom and then were handed termination letters in February 2011. Graham testified that the letter harpooned future job opportunities in law enforcement.

"It is standard operating procedure in law enforcement," Fletcher said of allowing resignation in order to protect future employment.

A few sheriff's sergeants testified Wednesday and Thursday that Graham and Miller did not have any performance or disciplinary issues in their five weeks as sworn deputies.

Under cross examination by Graham's and Miller's attorney, Mark Gehan, Sgt. Jeff Ramacher testified Thursday that in his decades-long career with the office he was not aware of probationary deputies being terminated unless performance and discipline were issues.

Gehan has tried to show that his clients received skewed treatment in Bostrom's administration among the 11 deputies Fletcher hired in 2010 that were still on probation when Bostrom took office in 2011. About a half-dozen of the new deputies did not receive additional backgrounding work in early 2011 while Graham, Miller and a few others did.

Graham and Miller were fired based on the document reviews and interviews conducted for their "background summary," which showed that Miller had two arrests for drunken bar fights (he was not convicted) and failed two previous psychological evaluations with the Sheriff's Office, and that previous supervisors thought Graham was cocky, immature, power-hungry and riled up inmates when he worked as a non-sworn community service officer.

Ramacher testified Thursday that it was common for some deputies' files not to contain background summaries because "in Sheriff Fletcher's administration, there were no hard and fast rules" about it. Graham's and Miller's background checks had begun under Fletcher's watch, and hundreds of pages had been gathered on each long before they were hired.

Bostrom's attorney, Charles Nauen, has focused on Graham's and Miller's past behavior and inability to land jobs at other agencies, and the fact that several Fletcher supporters were not terminated.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday.

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