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Jury trial awaits in Osceola County for Minten, Weber

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SIBLEY, Iowa -- Now that a federal judge has granted a summary judgment for former Osceola Deputy Daniel Minten in a case against Sheriff Doug Weber, attorneys for both sides are arguing what should and should not be admissible in court during an upcoming jury trial to determine damages.

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That trial is scheduled for Feb. 6 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Iowa.

A little more than a year ago, Minten, who served as a deputy in Osceola County for more than 20 years, filed charges against Weber after being fired for insubordination in 2010. Minten claimed his First Amendment rights were violated because the alleged insubordination came in the form of Minten offering to testify against Weber.

When Minten pulled a young woman over for speeding in 2009, he offered to testify against the sheriff in a court case the woman's father, Paul Dorr, was bringing against Weber. Weber had turned down Dorr's request for a conceal and carry permit, and Dorr filed a lawsuit against the sheriff, claiming his First Amendment rights had been violated.

Video of the traffic stop obtained by the Daily Globe shows Minten asking the woman he pulled over for speeding how her father's case is coming along; he then offers to testify for Dorr. Minten states he would need to be subpoenaed and adds that he shouldn't be saying what he is because the camera in his squad car is recording. Minten also tells the woman in the video that he has considered filing a lawsuit against the sheriff himself.

During Minten's deposition he states he did not know who the woman was when he stopped or approached her. He also admitted he did not follow standard operating procedure -- he did not notify dispatch he had stopped the car, nor did he log the stop. He stated that discussing Dorr's case against the sheriff was part of public relations, adding that in offering to testify against the sheriff, "I would imagine that her father would have thought well of me."

The sheriff came across the video at a later date while investigating a non-related complaint against Minten. A transcript of subsequent meeting between Minten, Weber and a union representative states Minten was concerned it would be hard to get unemployment benefits if he quit, so he requested he be terminated rather than resign under duress.

Minten's deposition also shows his admission to being fired from previous employment on at least one occasion and having several complaints against him while at the Osceola County Sheriff' s Office.

During Weber's deposition, he was asked if he terminated Minten.

"No, Dan fired himself," Weber responded. "I just chronicled the events."

Weber likened Minten's pursuit of the Dorr case while on duty to a salesman, stating Minten could sell Amway, but not on Osceola County's time.

He stated several times that he didn't care if Minten wanted to discuss Dorr's lawsuit.

"The issue is he stopped this car for his own personal agenda," Weber stated. "He was not doing the business of the sheriff."

Minten was originally turned down for unemployment, but that decision was overturned on appeal on the grounds that a law officer offering to testify truthfully is not employee misconduct.

When Minten filed the lawsuit in January 2011, he claimed to be engaged in First Amendment-protected speech during the traffic stop. Judge Mark Bennett later upheld that claim, granting the summary judgment and setting the matter for a jury trial.

Bennett decided Minten made his offer to testify in his capacity as a private citizen rather than a deputy, then determined Minten was speaking on a matter of public concern.

Weber failed to offer any evidence of workplace disruption resulting from Minten's statements, Bennett states in his decision, adding that "it is clear from the summary judgment record that (Minten's) protected speech was a motivating factor in the termination."

Although Weber claimed the alleged insubordination during the traffic stop was "combined with five other unresolved matters... the last straw," Bennett found that Minten established his case of retaliation in violation to his First Amendment rights.

"This is now the second time Sheriff Weber's actions have been held by this court to be unconstitutional and in direct violation of his oath of office," Bennett wrote.

In his initial complaint, Minten asked for damages from Weber including damaged reputation, diminished career opportunities, lost wages, benefits and pension, along with punitive damages.

Weber's attorneys have now asked that the outcome of the unemployment hearing be avoided in front of a jury, along with any references to the outcome of the Dorr litigation, after which Weber was court-ordered to take a class on the First Amendment.

Minten's attorney's made a motion that references to other workplace disciplinary violations and complaints against Minten during the course of his employment be avoided.

Minten claims the unemployment proceedings and the Dorr verdict are relevant to Minten's punitive damages claim.

Citing case law, his attorneys state "prior acts may be admitted if relevant to a material issue... prior acts include prior lawsuits."

Weber's attorneys have not yet filed a response to Minten's latest motion.

Daily Globe reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at

376-7322.

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