Sturgeon places reinstated police chief on unpaid administrative leave

KOMU file photo February 2019

COLUMBIA - A Boone County jury returned a verdict Friday, in favor of former Sturgeon Police Chief Greg Halderman for tortious interference with employment relationship and wrongful discharge.

Halderman will be awarded $300,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages.

According to previous KOMU 8 reporting, Halderman was removed from office in March 2017 by the Sturgeon City Council after he reported to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department that a friend of Alderman Tyler Patterson may have been involved in domestic violence and child neglect.

Halderman also reported the alderman to the Attorney General’s Office for removing his original personnel file from City Hall in violation of the Missouri Sunshine Law.

The Sturgeon City Council initiated removal proceedings against Chief Halderman in March 2017 under a 2013 Missouri statute adopted principally to protect municipal police chiefs from political reprisal. The Council found “just cause” to remove Halderman from office based on allegations of alcohol abuse and reckless conduct, but Boone County Circuit Judge Jeff Harris ordered Halderman reinstated in 2019 after finding that the City failed to follow the removal statute and deprived Halderman of due process.

The City placed Halderman on administrative leave following his reinstatement and voted to remove him again in April 2019. The City dropped the allegation of alcohol abuse during the second removal hearing.

Halderman’s remaining claims against the City for wrongful discharge and against Alderman Patterson for tortious interference were tried to a jury in a week-long trial which started on July 26. The jury deliberated for four and a half hours before returning a verdict for Halderman on both counts.

“We are tremendously pleased that Greg has been vindicated at last by a jury of his peers,” Halderman's attorney, J. Andrew Hirth said in a news release. “Greg was falsely accused of alcohol abuse and wrongfully removed from office in retaliation for his reports of wrongdoing by personal friends of the alderman. This jury has sent a powerful message to city councils across the state not to interject politics into local law enforcement. Justice has finally been served.”

The jury also found Patterson liable for punitive damages, awarding an additional sum of $15,000 against the former alderman personally.

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