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Fired cop files lawsuit against city, county

 

January 24, 2020

Former Cloquet police detective and K9 handler Scott Holman

Former Cloquet police detective Scott Holman filed a civil lawsuit last week seeking $4 million in damages caused by his dismissal from employment, including defamation and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Holman, represented by attorneys Mike Padden and Paul Applebaum, names four defendants in the lawsuit: the city of Cloquet, Carlton County, Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola and Cloquet City Councilor Kerry Kolodge.

The lawsuit states that Holman's termination was the result of a "Brady" policy created by the Carlton County Attorney's Office "for sanctioning police officers."

The term "Brady" refers to the Supreme Court Case, Brady v. Maryland that requires prosecuting attorneys to disclose any material that could help exonerate a defendant of guilt, including misconduct findings involving law enforcement officers. Such officers are sometimes called "Brady cops" because the identified past misconduct means defense attorneys can bring up the behavior, and cast doubt on their testimony.

After taking office in January, Ketola's office hired a consulting attorney with expertise in Brady/Giglio issues to help them conduct integrity reviews in such cases. Holman was the second Cloquet police officer identified with past disciplinary issues that could affect their credibility.

A detective and K-9 officer who had worked for the Cloquet police department for 22 years, Holman was dismissed last June on a 4-2 vote of the council. It was never stated publicly that Holman was fired because he'd been deemed a "Brady cop," but the action came after the county attorney's office identified past misconduct issues that could affect his ability to be a credible witness in court. The office alerted defense attorneys.

Holman lost an arbitration case appealing his dismissal in November, in which the union argued that county attorney Lauri Ketola's decision was flawed, that she has a personal dislike of Holman, and 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.

Arbitrator Rolland Toenges denied Holman's grievance, citing 10 different points, including the fact that Ketola, as a former member of the Cloquet Citizens Advisory Board, had direct knowledge of Holman's history.

The lawsuit identifies three causes of action under federal law:

-Unlawful retaliation for exercise of free speech;

-Unconstitutional deprivation of liberty and property without due process;

-Violations of the Fifth and 14th Amendments.

Additionally, there are four causes of action under state law, including defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent training and supervision, and negligent maintenance of employee personnel file.

The civil lawsuit makes a number of claims, among them:

- That the Brady procedure was used to justify Holman's termination without any due process and that Ketola and Kolodge conspired to get him fired;

- That Kolodge failed to protect Holman from Ketola's "illegal conduct," which the next point states included creating "false and defamatory evidence," then branding him untrustworthy to testify in court. Point 5 of the lawsuit alleges that Holman was not given the opportunity to respond or argue the designation.

"The taint of Brady and the City's firing served the goal of destroying Holman's law enforcement career then and into the future," the lawsuit states, adding that the action should be declared unconstitutional under both state and federal law.

-Ketola informed the Cloquet police chief that she would refuse to prosecute any cases that could rely on Holman's testimony. Instead of protecting him from Ketola, the lawsuit says Kolodge was "city ring leader" with the assistance of the mayor in destroying Holman's career.

-The final summary point states that Holman was sanctioned and ultimately fired was for "his advocacy via social media posts" for his agency and fellow police officers. Because he criticized both Ketola and Kolodge in those posts, it resulted in an "additional personal vendetta by the two" against Holman, the lawsuit states.

The factual background of the case includes background on Holman's work for the CPD, an account of former Cloquet police chief Steve Stracek's hire and eventual resignation, which followed a vote of no confidence by the police union. It also discusses Ketola's role at that time as a member of the Cloquet Citizen Advisory Board, which assists the police chief with hiring, discipline, public complaints and more. Over seven pages and nearly 40 numbered paragraphs, the lawsuit summarizes what happened, according to Holman, from the time the police union took a vote of no confidence in Stracek to the day that Holman was fired more than two years later.

Holman's civil lawsuit was filed in federal court Jan. 15 by attorney Mike Padden, who released the court document to media outlets the same day.

A summons for the defendants was issued Jan. 16 and the case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Schiltz of the District of Minnesota, chambered in Minneapolis.

Kolodge confirmed to the Pine Knot News that he was served with the lawsuit Jan. 21. New Cloquet city administrator Tim Peterson said Tuesday the city had not yet been officially served, but noted that he was supposed to make arrangements to receive the document.

Both Kolodge and Peterson declined to comment on the lawsuit, and Ketola said she had been served.

A copy of the identical summons issued to the four defendants - obtained through a public access service for federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts - states that the defendants have 21 days to answer the complaint and serve that answer to Holman's attorney and the court.

According to court documents filed Tuesday, Jan. 21, Jessica E. Schwie will represent Kolodge and the City of Cloquet. Ketola and Carlton County are represented by attorney Vicki Hruby.

No hearings have been set yet for the lawsuit, which also demanded a jury trial.

Find a copy of the complaint in our 01/24/2020 photo gallery on the right hand side of the home page or by going here: https://www.pineknotnews.com/photos.

 
 

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