Osceola County Sheriff Doug Weber facing civil suit
SIBLEY, Iowa -- A civil suit filed against Osceola County Sheriff Doug Weber earlier this month requests relief in the form of punitive damages, attorney costs and lost wages and benefits, according to court documents.
Daniel Minten, who served 21 years with the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, was terminated from his position by Weber in February 2010 for insubordination, the complaint states. Minten has demanded a jury trial as a claim for retaliation regarding a public employee's firing for exercising First Amendment-protected free speech.
"The termination was based solely on Minten's offer of testimony in the Dorr case," the document continues.
Paul Dorr prevailed in legal action against Weber after being denied a conceal and carry gun permit. As part of the Dorr ruling, Weber was required to take a course regarding the United States Constitution and First Amendment rights.
While the case was pending, Minten, on duty as a deputy sheriff, stopped a vehicle driven by Dorr's daughter in August 2009. During the traffic stop, the document states, Minten told the daughter he would testify in her father's First Amendment litigation.
"Minten's motive to offer testimony was based upon public concern represented by the Dorr litigation," the complaint states. "At the time of the traffic stop, Minten was not a candidate for elected office in Osceola County. Minten had no interest in seeking public office."
For the 2008 election, Minten ran against Weber in the June Republican primary, but Weber defeated Minton and went on to run unopposed in the general election, according to the Osceola County Auditor's Office. Weber was first elected sheriff in 2004.
Several months after the traffic stop, Weber found and watched the video of the incident with Dorr's daughter, the complaint states, and concluded Minten's offer to testify was an act of insubordination. Weber set up a meeting between himself, Minten and a representative from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). At the meeting, Weber informed Minten of the involuntary termination. According to the complaint, the AFSCME representative told Minten the union wouldn't fight the termination and that he would have "a better chance of retaining his job if he had shot someone."
A dispute over unemployment compensation followed, with Weber initially prevailing. On appeal, the court document states, Minten won on the grounds that a law officer offering to testify truthfully is not employee misconduct.
"Minten has suffered damages as a direst result of (Weber's) unconstitutional actions," the complaint states. "Minten has been further damaged in other ways including but not limited to: damaged reputation, diminished career opportunities, lost wages, lost benefits and lost pension benefits."
The attorneys representing Minten in the matter are the same attorneys who represented Dorr in his legal actions against Weber.
Dorr, after his case had prevailed, filed a motion for attorney fees and costs for more than $118,000. District Court Judge Mark Bennet, in an order filed in September 2010, reduced the amount for time not reasonably expended, for block billing and "for submitting a wildly over-inflated fee request." Bennet wrote that the 500 hours of attorney and paralegal time claimed by Dorr were "extraordinary in light of the six-hour case that was tried."
Bennet reduced the amount owed for legal fees to $51,744.
"Becoming a prevailing party was a sure thing when the honest and candid public servant, Sheriff Weber, readily admitted his constitutional wrongdoing in his own deposition," Bennet wrote. "Continuing to litigate this case with three lawyers, running up the hours with the speed and momentum of an out-of-control freight train, is the very definition of over-reaching. Following Sheriff Weber's deposition, (Dorr's) chances of losing this case rivaled the odds of the Easter Bunny, during next February's Super Bowl, throwing the winning touchdown pass, off a triple reverse on the last play of the game, for a come- from-behind victory for the St. Louis Rams."