Alan Watt Sues Crystal

September 8, 2014 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment


By Andrew Richter

I knew this was coming a few weeks ago but out of respect for my source, I decided not to reveal that but here it is;

After years of conflict with the city and a February pink slip, former Crystal Police Officer Alan Watt has filed suit against his former employers in Hennepin County District Court.

The suit names the City of Crystal, Police Chief Stephanie Revering and City Manager Anne Norris as defendants. It alleges that they retaliated against Watt after he spoke out against misconduct in the department, violated his constitutional rights by punishing him for affiliating with a citizens’ group as a private citizen, terminated him because they believed him to be suffering from a “mental impairment,” and retaliated against him for reporting discriminatory treatment.

Watt is seeking back pay, that he be reinstated to his job or be awarded front pay for the money and benefits he would have earned going forward, and $50,000 in compensatory damages.

The city’s response to the lawsuit denies those claims, and argues that the defendants’ actions were taken for “legitimate, nonretaliatory, and nondiscriminatory business reasons.”

League of Minnesota Cities Attorney Jana O’Leary Sullivan, who represents the city, Revering, and Norris, said Watt had a history of misconduct himself, including accessing police records for personal reasons, leaving his gun on a table prior to a meeting with a supervisor, violating the directives of his supervisor, disregarding the chain of command and violating Minnesota’s government data practices act.

Personally I think its’ scary if ANY ONE of those things are true.

Watt was formally fired on Feb. 28 after a years-long dispute with city and department officials. He alleges that he was retaliated against for speaking out against department misconduct, including an incident involving the West Metro Gang Strike Force, which resulted in the Ramirez family, who were Crystal residents at the time, having their belongings confiscated and never returned.

Word on the street is that the Ramirez family has moved back to Crystal……which seems like an odd development to me if the Crystal police are so bad.

“We actually have no record of him complaining or him sort of taking on that Ramirez incident,” said O’Leary Sullivan, who also said that an investigation did happen and that no wrongdoing was uncovered.

Watt also alleges that he was punished for attending events with Communities United Against Police Brutality, which he believes violates his freedom of association under state law.

“He was speaking out, not in his capacity as an officer, but in his capacity as a citizen,” said Joni Thome, Watt’s attorney. “Because the city is a political entity, it can’t tell him what he can’t say as a private citizen.”

I have no issue with Mr. Watt associating with the group CUAPB but I think it was a serious mistake. They were no help to Mr. Watt and if anything I think they hurt his case, not helped.

Watt also takes issue with the city’s requests for information regarding therapy sessions he was undergoing throughout the dispute, which he believes to have been excessive and constitute harassment. He also believes the city discriminated against him for the perceived disability, as well, explained Thome.

“All I can say is they’ve done everything humanly possible to ruin my reputation and make things difficult for me,” said Watt in an Aug. 20 phone message. “Of course, they said the same things about Sergeant Erkenbrack and settled with him.”

Hmmmm…..hint there?

Erkenbrack, a former police sergeant, alleged that he was demoted and ultimately fired for similarly speaking out about department misconduct. The city maintained that it had just cause for his termination, and said as much in the settlement agreement.

Erkenbrack received $160,000 in his settlement, and was reinstated as a sergeant.

While Erkenbrack and Watt’s cases are decidedly different, Thome did not rule out the possibility of a settlement, and said she had made an offer, which the city rejected.

“The circumstances of the termination in Watt’s case are very different,” said O’Leary Sullivan, mentioning independent investigations into Watt’s misconduct, “progressive discipline” levied against him and the lack of a union grievance as differing circumstances.

Personally I hope there is NO settlement. I’d like to know what actually happened here and not have the case locked away in a box somewhere where nobody sees it. I was disappointed that the Erkenbrack case was settled.

Now, I have been quiet on my opinions in this case (even though I do have them) and I’ll hold back on that for now. We’ll see what happens…..

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Entry filed under: City Government, Community, Crystal.

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