DULUTH – A federal lawsuit brought by a former Cloquet police officer is leveling blistering accusations against Carlton County’s top prosecutor and is seeking at least $4 million in damages.
Scott Holman says he was retaliated against and his civil rights were violated when he was reprimanded for a social media post, barred from testifying in cases he worked on and, this spring, fired after 22 years with the department.
The lawsuit says Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola, who was elected in 2018, had a “vendetta/personal motive to damage and violate the rights” of Holman and the goal of “destroying [his] career.”
An attorney representing Ketola and Carlton County, which was also named as a defendant, said they will “vigorously defend the suit.”
“We do not believe the allegations in the complaint have merit,” attorney Vicki Hruby said.
Also named in the suit are the city of Cloquet and Cloquet City Council Member Kerry Kolodge, who the lawsuit said “conspired with Ketola with the ultimate goal of terminating [Holman].”
Kolodge said he was not able to comment on the issue. Cloquet City Administrator Tim Peterson said the city had not been served the lawsuit as of Friday morning and had no comment.
The complaint begins in July 2017 with comments Holman made online, using a pseudonym, about Steve Stracek, who had resigned as Cloquet’s chief of police. Holman also targeted Ketola and Kolodge in his posts.
The suit argues that was “protected speech,” but after an internal investigation found the posts violated department policy, an oral reprimand was recommended. Ketola was on a citizen oversight board at the time and “advocated for the more significant discipline of suspension,” the suit says.
After taking office as county attorney in 2019, Ketola moved to place Holman on a Brady list, which flags a police officer’s credibility as a witness in court cases. Ketola also said she would not prosecute “any case that involved [Holman] as a detective or investigator,” according to the lawsuit.
On June 4, the Cloquet City Council voted to fire Holman.
“The conspirators, with the assistance directly and indirectly of the municipal defendants, had finally achieved their goal,” the suit states.
The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and seeks damages in excess of $4 million.
The suit brings three federal claims: unlawful retaliation for exercise of free speech; due process; and violations of the Fifth and 14th Amendments. There are also four claims under state law: defamation; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent training and supervision; and negligent maintenance of an employee personnel file.