Sturgeon places reinstated police chief on unpaid administrative leave

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STURGEON –The city of Sturgeon put its police chief on unpaid administrative leave Tuesday, after firing and reinstating him. The chief's attorney said the move is illegal.

Greg Halderman was fired from his job as Sturgeon's police chief nearly 11 months ago. A judge ordered the city to reinstate Halderman on Friday because it didn't follow proper firing procedures, according to court documents.

In his decision, the judge ruled the city had to give Halderman back pay for the nearly 11 months he was off the job.

Halderman was accused of inappropriate behavior and alcohol abuse. When Sturgeon's aldermen voted to fire him, some said he was unfit to serve.

Halderman’s attorney, Andy Hirth, said he believes the city has once again broken the law by placing Halderman on administrative leave.

“They have an order from a court saying here is the remedy you are supposed to impose, and they said no,” Hirth said. “Any employer has the right to pay you not to show up. What they can’t do is not pay you not to show up.”

Hirth said the accusations against Halderman were entirely false.

The judge's ruling said Sturgeon did not comply with procedural requirements of a "contested case" when it removed Halderman.

The makeup of Sturgeon's City Council has shifted since Halderman was fired. Only one alderman who was in office at the time of the firing is still serving on the council.

“The way the law works, no one who sat on the original panel can sit on the new one on a rehearing,” Hirth said. “The current mayor and one alderman were on the board at the time Halderman was removed, so they could not sit on the new panel.”

At the time he was removed, Hirth said, Halderman had widespread support from the community, and he was ousted as part of a personal vendetta by one of the aldermen.

“Part of the underlying claim in our lawsuit is that this whole thing was orchestrated by one particular member of the city council who has a personal beef with Chief Halderman,” Hirth said.

Hirth said he believes a number of incidents contributed to the retribution, including one in which the mayor, Danny Joiner, directed him to perform a criminal background check on a candidate. Halderman told the mayor that would be illegal and refused to do it, Hirth said.

Hirth said Halderman was ecstatic to return to work on Tuesday, but he was disappointed and angry to learn he was not allowed to do the job.