Kaminsky Law, S.C.
Daniel Kaminsky Attorney at Law
531 Fond du Lac Avenue • Fond du Lac, WI 54935 (920) 322-1375 • Fax (920) 322-1376
February 25, 2016
PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release
COURT REINSTATES FOND DU LAC POLICE OFFICER WRONGFULLY TERMINATED UNDER ILLEGAL CONTRACT
Nearly two years after he was purportedly fired, on January 5, 2016, Judge Karen Siefert, sitting on assignment in Fond du Lac case 15CV127, issued a Writ of Mandamus ordering Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb to reinstate Officer Curt Beck.
The legal issue is one of state statute section 62.13, which, under an express policy to create a uniform statewide system for the discipline and termination of police officers, states that a police chief cannot fire a subordinate on their own decision, but instead must bring the matter before the Police and Fire Commission to establish not only just cause for the action, but fairness in the investigatory process.
“This law expresses a clear public policy recognizing the difficult job police officers face, often with compensation that pales in comparison to the risks. To encourage people to enter into law enforcement, our State has guaranteed officers rights in their jobs beyond those in the private sector, including not losing their job over personal whims and personality conflicts which so often permeate the everyday workplace.” Daniel Kaminsky.
On February 15, 2016, Judge Siefert denied the City’s Motion for Reconsideration, clarifying that the Chief’s so called “last chance agreement” is illegal in violation of the statute. She also confirmed that Beck is entitled to recover his costs and damages in the action.
The ramifications for the City are significant. They will have to pay back pay and benefits since July, 2014. The numbers will exceed six figures, meaning that with both damages and the City’s own legal expenses for outside counsel, the Chief and Assistant City attorney’s decisions will cost the taxpayers a very large sum of money with nothing to show for it. That all could have been avoided only a few months into the litigation once the illegality of the contract was pointed out to them.
The following statement was received from Fond du Lac Police Department Local 12:
“February 25th, 2016
The Local 12 Association of the WPPA has been aware of the Internal Investigation involving City of Fond du Lac Police Officer Curt Beck since early July of 2014. During that time, Local 12 expressed concerns about the validity and merit of the alleged policy violations brought forth during the Internal Investigation. Local 12 was also against any disciplinary action brought forth as a result of the investigation, including the termination of Officer Beck’s employment.
In February of 2016, Local 12 was informed of Judge Karen Seifert’s decision in Fond du Lac County Circuit Court to nullify the termination of Officer Beck and to reinstate Officer Beck as a police officer with the City of Fond du Lac effective immediately. Local 12 welcomes back Officer Beck to the Fond du Lac Police Department and believes Officer Beck is a valuable asset to the department and to the Fond du Lac community.
Local 12 Board of Directors (BOD)”
Yet the City officials won’t quit. After the initial ruling, they put Beck back on the payroll, then immediately placed him on administrative leave with pay. They say they plan to appeal, continuing to cost taxpayers more money in attorney fees on a legal issue which seems very well established, not to mention salary for an officer they are not utilizing.
The Chief’s attorney also indicates they will continue to pursue the ill-fated discipline against Beck from July 2014. The Chief insists he can prove Beck was not forthcoming when he denied remembering a few text messages from a co-worker, even though Beck acknowledged the message when shown and answered questions about it moments later. These alleged honesty issues were already tried and lost when the City contested Beck’s unemployment early on in the process. After hearing testimony from the Chief’s investigator, the administrative law judge ruled that Beck was not dishonest and that the claim was little more than unsupported opinion.
Beck is ready, able and willing to go back to work. Until 2014, he had 7 years of service with no record of discipline.
What’s most concerning having gone through this process is not just the tremendous cost to the taxpayers with nothing to show for it, but the Chief of Police and Assistant City Attorney’s statements under oath during deposition. Both outright denied they terminated Beck. Their testimony appeared shaped to match their legal theory which attempted to avoid liability arguing Beck voluntarily resigned instead of being fired and forced out. But contrary to the Chief’s testimony, the union representatives who were present remember the events differently. They took detailed notes clearly indicating the Chief unequivocally told Beck he was terminated immediately. Beck was even escorted to retrieve his gun, badge and issued equipment. The Chief’s testimony is so concerning that Kaminsky and Beck have filed charges against him for perjury and misconduct with the very Police and Fire Commission the City fought so hard to avoid in the first place.