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Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington target of two complaints, lawsuit

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Blogger Bob said...

Harrington target of two complaints, lawsuit
Harrington the target of two hostile-workplace complaints, unfair labor suit
BY MARA H. GOTTFRIED and TIM NELSON
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 12/05/2007 11:48:26 PM CST


After more than three years of relatively smooth relations between St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington and his officers, the honeymoon appears to be over.

Things came to a head this week with two hostile-workplace complaints filed by high-ranking officers against Harrington, and a lawsuit by the police union alleging unfair labor practices:

-- A commander and sergeant allege Harrington treated them unfairly and retaliated against them for supporting political candidates he opposed.

-- Both officers became aware that Harrington was being paid to work in off-duty jobs and expressed concerns over it.

-- The lawsuit claims Harrington is giving police jobs to civilians, which the union said threatens public safety.

Harrington said Wednesday his mission is to treat everyone in the department fairly. He disputed the public safety concern.

Dave Titus, St. Paul Police Federation president, said relations between rank-and-file officers and Harrington have been "progressively getting worse" since he became chief in 2004.

But Harrington said he hasn't been aware of bad blood.

"I haven't had any sense there's a groundswell of concern," he said. "My impression is we're working through a series of grievances; there have been some labor disputes we've settled with them that have been very problematic."

Mayor Chris Coleman expressed support for Harrington in a written statement Wednesday.

"We have a strong police department and the chief is doing a great job," Coleman said. "We take all allegations of workplace misconduct seriously. The city of St. Paul will deal with these allegations professionally and in accordance with the law."
HOSTILE WORKPLACE ALLEGATIONS

Sgt. Tyrone Strickland, who heads Western District investigations, and Cmdr. Todd Axtell, who works on homeland security issues, filed the complaints with the city's human resources department Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Both were obtained by the Pioneer Press on Wednesday.

"It was very unfortunate that a sequence of events have led us to the point we're at today," Axtell said.

Strickland said he would let the investigation take its course before commenting.

Harrington said the city has told him an outside agency will conduct the investigation and that he couldn't comment on specifics.

"I think we tried to be fair with all the commanders and all the sergeants," he said. "Anytime you do that there will be people who had plum assignments in the past who had to share assignments."

In Axtell's memo to human resources, he wrote:

-- Axtell began volunteering for Chris Coleman's mayoral campaign on his own time in 2005. He received several warnings from an assistant chief about not getting involved in politics.

"He could cite no violation of policy, but instead repeatedly reminded me that the chief was getting along very well with (then) Mayor (Randy) Kelly."

-- In 2005 and 2006, Axtell volunteered for another political campaign. The memo doesn't mention which campaign, but Axtell had supported retired St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney in his campaign against incumbent Bob Fletcher for Ramsey County sheriff.

On Nov. 11, 2006, four days after Fletcher defeated Finney, Axtell received an e-mail from Harrington, saying he was being reassigned.

-- While planning for last summer's Hmong Soccer Tournament, Axtell was responsible for scheduling officers to work paid, off-duty jobs at the event. Axtell noticed that Harrington was listed as working in a paid, off-duty capacity for the event's sponsor.

"Although it was unheard of for a St. Paul police chief (or other major city chiefs) to receive pay at such events, I didn't question this, but extended the offer to again include him on the schedule," Axtell wrote. "I sent him an e-mail with this offer, and in less than 40 minutes I had received an e-mail from another commander stating that the chief had reassigned him scheduling responsibility for this off-duty assignment."

-- Axtell applied for a senior commander position in January and didn't get it. In March, after "many consecutive years of the highest ratings" in performance reviews, Axtell was downgraded.

"Most recently, rumors have been circulated around the department that I am the target of an internal investigation regarding matters unknown to me. These latest rumors affirm my belief that Chief Harrington, if allowed to continue his retaliation, will hinder my ability to advance my career and permanently harm my reputation."

In Strickland's memo to human resources, he wrote:

-- Over the past three years, Strickland supported candidates for mayor, City Council and sheriff who opposed those Harrington and the police union supported.

-- In November 2006, Harrington sent Strickland an e-mail telling Strickland to place him on the off-duty officer payroll for the Hmong New Year celebration. Strickland did not as he felt it was unethical and a conflict of interest.

-- Strickland had been an acting commander and when he asked Harrington in August 2004 to make the position permanent, Harrington told him, "You know the (police) federation doesn't want me to promote you."

UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES LAWSUIT

The St. Paul Police Federation served a lawsuit on the city Monday, though it hasn't yet been filed in court, the union's attorney said. It lists instances in which police management has, or is considering, giving officers' work to civilians.

The suit represents more than an internal battle between labor and management, Titus said.

When juvenile runaways are found, they used to be questioned by officers; now, that is done by clerical staff, the lawsuit alleges.

"This is an interview of what could be a victim or a suspect and police are specially trained for this," Titus said. "What if the ball gets dropped and it's the one opportunity for this kid to be saved?"

Harrington said the change is different than that described in the lawsuit. Clerical workers will be taking information from parents who report after business hours that their runaway child has returned home and officers will follow up on the case, Harrington said.

Harrington said there hadn't been a reduction in commanders or sergeants, but reassigning some work "allows us to put officers in additional investigative positions or patrol supervision."

Mara H. Gottfried covers St. Paul public safety. She can be reached at mgottfried@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5262.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corruption ---- Corruption ----- Corruption, the city is full of it everwhere you look.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's too bad cops can't just be cops. That goes for the rest of the city too. It seems like anyone who works for the city turns their job into a political thing. No ones doing the job they were intended to do cause they are all busy trying to be politicians.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gee, coleman is the same now as when councilman of ward 2.
he sick's up for the aggressors instead of the people, remember that harrington boss is lawyer chris coleman aka mayor.
corruption starts there.
right boys.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Repke where do you sit on this issue?Let me guess not with the little guy!

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Repke where do you sit on this issue?Let me guess not with the little guy!

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm I don't know, who is the supposed "little guy" in this one.

I can tell you this. I am not a fan of how the "rent a cop" process works in Saint Paul. I think that it is problematic to have this kind of a system, where ranking officers can end up doing off duty work for line police officers.

I have no clue if any of the alegations are true, or not.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Axtell, Finney is gone and the gravey train has left. When are you going to stop being his puppet. I know your loyal, he gave everything you have. How many years did you get a take home car to take home to Wisconsin? Take it to your cabin etc. How about all the overtime you made working the Excel Center when you and you buddy John Bandemer did the scheduling. Remember when a copy of your check was posted in the report room and everyone saw it. You were a sergeant making more than most commanders. You have had every plum assignment there is. Have you ever worked property crimes? or supervised patrol on a midnight shift? Finney has taken care of you and so has Harrington. Finney is gone and not coming back as chief, sheriff, or mayor. Stop doing his dirty work and bringing everyone down for your own personal gain.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its funny to hear Tyrone Strickland concerned about conflicts of interest. He did not look conflicted in the past working off duty for the MN Saints while being paid by the city of St. PAul Police as a Commander...sounds like double dipping to me, as well as a crime and policy violation. Someone should check his time sheets and the Saints payroll records. Tyrone has always been taken care of $$. He went from commander$$ to homocide investigator-lots of overtime money. What investigative experience does he have, people who know say none. If that is a hostile working environment he should count himself as lucky and move on.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finney was a DIRTY cop. Finney used his office to line his pockets. Drug dealing friends, covering for drug dealing connected police officers, covering for Aaron Foster who is now charged with murder. Finney has to be the dirtiest cop St. Paul has ever had. Todd was Finney's right hand man. Todd and Corky are dirty and should never have worn a uniform or badge. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't Finney Chris Coleman's campaign manager when Coleman ran for mator?

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Finney must be the most powerful law enforcement officer ever.

His friend commits a murder, you all scream he should go to jail because as a St Paul street cop he was able to influence the city of Maplewood, Maplewood Chief of Police, Ramsey county court system, Ramsey County Attorney's Office, Ramsey County Coroners Office, and any other cops, paramedics and eyewitnesses to this case.

Bob posts a story about the FBI investigating and indicting the Sheriff's best friend and Deputy among four other deputies, and you all throw up comments about Bill Finney. Somehow its Finney's fault that the Sheriff's Office is corrupt and dirty.

Harrington as Chief, has had multiple complaints about being absentee and more concerned about wearing the uniform and teaching a class. There has been sloppy important police work noted, a racially hostile, basement bar operating from the East Office on Payne. Now, two cops who have had nothing but accommodations on their spotless record file a suit and suddenly Finney's name appear again.

The unfair labor practices lawsuit by the Federation is real. It has nothing to do with Finney. This group went through extremes to keep from endorsing Finney for Sheriff, and worked to get Bob Fletcher re-elected. I guess its Finney's fault for this too?

Finney worked with Mayor Coleman last time around. The Mayor has taken a stand with Harrington on this. That flies in the face of your conspiracy that Coleman is behind this or Finney.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coleman campaign manager was Chris Fredson who is now working in the mayor's office as the deputy chief of staff.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chief Harrington

"Here Comes The Judge"

Sure, they are the easiest to payoff.

All the people that respected the law, now see's they wasted their time.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous WTF? said...

I think the entire St. Paul Police department needs an overhaul. I felt awful for Harrington until I saw the story on Chanel 9 last night. I am amazed at what goes on in the police dept. and am very concerned about what Harringtons people did to Tom Lyden by getting a subphoenae to get Lydens cell phone records. Something must be done about these renegades at the police dept. and heads should roll. What the St. Paul PD did to Tom Lyden by siezing his cell phone records is unconstitutional and illegal according to USA and Minnesota laws. Its time to clean up that department. Tom Lyden should sue.

8:29 PM  

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