Officer loses appeal; K-9 dog finds home
November 15, 2019
Five months after his dismissal, a former Cloquet police detective is in the news again.
Scott Holman, a 22-year member of the department, lost an arbitration case appealing his dismissal this week. His name also came up during last week's Cloquet city council meeting when the council voted to retire Holman's former K-9 partner, Raja, because of health issues.
City officials learned Tuesday that the city prevailed in a grievance arbitration case between the city and Teamsters Local 346, Holman's union.
At the heart of the dispute was the question of whether the city had the right to fire Holman in June after he was designated a "Brady cop," because that limited his ability to testify credibly in court, a vital part of a detective's job.
The term "Brady cop" refers to a Supreme Court case that requires prosecuting attorneys to notify defendants and their attorneys whenever a law enforcement officer involved in their case has a sustained record for knowingly lying in an official capacity. The designation was based on Holman's record of misconduct while he was with the Cloquet police department, specifically incidents in 2004, 2005 and 2017 that resulted in disciplinary action and which the county attorney's office said "reflected dishonesty and credibility issues" according to the arbitration award.
In the arbitration case, the city argued that it had just cause to terminate Holman on the basis that he could not perform the essential duties of his position as detective-sergeant, because the county attorney determined he was an unacceptable witness to testify in court proceedings and will not prosecute cases where he would be a witness. The city also argued that because of the small size of its department, it could not afford the cost of approximately $127,000 a year for a detective that couldn't fulfill his job.
The union argued that county attorney Lauri Ketola's decision was flawed, that she has a personal dislike of Holman, that two of the incidents were long ago and low-level incidents. The union also said that to discharge Holman for incidents he was already disciplined for was double jeopardy.
In a ruling that both sides had previously agreed they would accept, arbitrator Rolland Toenges denied Holman's grievance, citing 10 different points, including the fact that the Ketola, as a former member of the Cloquet Citizens Advisory Board, had direct knowledge of Holman's history.
"It is axiomatic that the County Attorney having direct knowledge of the Grievant's misconduct and disciplinary history is qualified to assess the effect application of the Brady Law might have on the Grievant's credibility as a witness," Toenges wrote, noting that the county attorney said the decision to prosecute cases where Holman is a witness is final. He also added that the county attorney's decision is not subject to the arbitrator's review, nor can it be changed by the police department or the city of Cloquet.
The county attorney's office sent a list of at least nine cases that were either dismissed or not charged as a result of Holman's involvement, and one that was pending because the defendant had already been convicted and his case is on appeal
In response to questions from the Pine Knot News, Holman's attorney, Mike Padden, said Wednesday that they intend to file suit in federal court against Ketola, Carlton County and the city of Cloquet regarding Holman's loss of job.
K-9 stories differ
City councilors voted unanimously to retire former Cloquet K-9 Raja during the Nov. 7 council meeting, because the dog is now blind and experiencing separation anxiety and neurosis after being boarded in three different kennels since Holman's dismissal.
In the staff report to the council, interim police chief Derek Randall said Raja, a 7-year-old Dutch Shepherd, had been out of service since Holman left the department in early June. K-9 animals live with their handlers when they aren't on duty, so Randall said the dog was boarded at a kennel.
Randall wrote that the previous acting chief [Commander Carey Ferrell] had informed him that Holman did not want to take the dog.
Holman's attorney, Mike Padden, said the city never gave his client a chance to keep the dog.
"Regarding Sgt. Holman's former K-9 partner, Raja, the day after he was fired, he was told by the acting chief that she would be taken away from him at 8 a.m. the next morning," Padden wrote in response to the Pine Knot News. "That did in fact occur at 8 a.m. on June 5. He could not prevent this from happening."
On June 5, the day after Holman's dismissal, in an email response to Pine Knot News questions, former Cloquet city administrator Aaron Reeves said Raja was at retirement age and retired K-9s are "generally offered to the handler or adopted out."
Raja had no health issues in June, Holman said through his attorney.
Randall's report noted that he was informed that the dog was blind, a fact that was confirmed when veterinarian Don Goebel examined the dog July 18, according to the dog's medical records. At the same time, Goebel also diagnosed the dog with separation and general anxiety.
Randall reported that he emailed and sent a letter to Holman informing him of Raja's retirement on Sept. 30 - an event that would have allowed the former K-9 handler to take the dog - but received no reply.
Padden said his client received a text about Raja in September, and inquired about her health status but received no reply.
Randall said he received an email from Holman Oct. 5, questioning the dog's blindness diagnosis but noted that the former handler "did not state he wanted the dog."
After an exam on Oct. 24, Goebel prescribed medication for anxiety, noting that if Raja is rehomed to "a situation where she can be given all-day attention or possibly other animals to socialize with," the medication may be discontinued. He also agreed with certified canine trainer and behavior specialist Jennifer Orn of Liberty K9, where Raja was last boarded, that the K-9 should be retired.
Raja's story may have a happy ending yet. Randall said Wednesday night that Raja had been adopted already, sharing a post from Liberty K9 that said the former police dog went to her "furever" home that evening.