Meet Bob Fletcher: Ramsey County's most controversial cop

Ramsey County Sheriff fends off charges of cronyism

Early in his first term, Fletcher began creating new units that, as promised, introduced more in-the-field positions. He didn't create these jobs out of thin air; he reshuffled personnel from the Detention Division to his newly formed units. It was in line with Fletcher's vow to shift the department's emphasis from jailing to arresting. This included the creation of an Apprehension Unit, a team of a half-dozen deputies sent out to investigate and arrest low- to mid-level criminals. Among others was a newly constructed Fugitive Task Force, which focused on at-large perps, and a Special Investigations Unit, which pursued the kind of high-level criminals you see on The Wire.

The common thread that ran through the newly created positions was that they were highly desirable. They carried with them a certain level of excitement and prestige. And with so many of these jobs suddenly up for grabs, some veterans started to notice a pattern: Seniority played little role in the selections. Fletcher was effectively handpicking the appointees. Political fealty to Fletcher appeared to be the number-one criterion.

"The way he wanted to use personnel made it clear how power-hungry he was," says a retired deputy who asked that his name be withheld. "He wanted total control. People who believed they would be in positions of authority due to seniority were replaced by his supporters."

Bob Fletcher, Ramsey County Sherrif
Nick Vlcek
Bob Fletcher, Ramsey County Sherrif

Further hurting morale was the suspicion that some in the ranks were moles looking for reward by reporting back to the boss. Topics discussed in the locker room came up in staff meetings. The suspicions were so widespread, there was a nickname for suspected snitches. "We called them 'internal informants,'" the retired deputy says.

In 2001, Lieutenant John Moore decided to challenge his boss in the next election for sheriff. A 20-year veteran of the department, Moore supervised the eight-man Patrol Division. With his entrance into the campaign, the divide in the department grew more evident. Sides were chosen, lines drawn.

Burke, for his part, threw his support behind Moore's campaign, of which he made no secret. As he would soon learn, supporting his boss's opponent came with a price.

One day in an elevator, when a Fletcher supporter asked Burke if he was supporting Moore, Burke was honest.

"Yes, that's right," he recalls saying. He then added jokingly, "I guess this isn't a real good move for my political career."

"No," answered the supporter. "It isn't."

Burke received a letter one week later informing him that he was being transferred. His days with the Apprehension Unit, working the street and arresting criminals, were over. He'd been reassigned to the Transportation Unit, a position he bitterly describes as "a glorified cab driver."

In July 2001, Moore was summoned by Fletcher. The sheriff told him that he was transferring him to the Apprehension Unit, a lowly destination for a lieutenant. No officer ranked as high as lieutenant had ever served there. Moore remembered he had informed his colleague Dennis Flaherty, a Fletcher supporter, of his intent to run for sheriff just 10 days earlier. Fletcher's parting words confirmed his worst suspicions.

"By the way," he said. "I spoke to Flaherty."

This exchange would come out in a lawsuit Moore filed in 2006. Joining the suit was Sergeant Joyce Shockency, who had campaigned extensively for Moore and found herself similarly transferred. The case never went to trial. The circumstances and evidence were strong enough in the plaintiffs' favor to compel attorneys for Ramsey County and Fletcher to settle. The settlement cost Ramsey County taxpayers $750,000.


MARK NAYLON AND DEPUTY Timothy Rehak entered room 503 in the Kelly Inn in downtown St. Paul and began searching. They checked the closets, peered under the beds. They had been tipped off that a drug dealer named "Vinnie" had been arrested in Wisconsin that night and had left his smack and cash somewhere in this room. They opened the top drawer of a small dresser nestled between two queen-sized beds and found a small black duffel bag. They tossed the bag onto a bed, unzipped it, and peered inside.

No drugs, but wads of unmarked bills. If they took the time to count it, they'd know they were looking at $13,500.

Naylon casually handed a stack of bills to Rehak, who pocketed it.

Little did they know, they were under FBI surveillance.

Naylon had been the subject of a federal investigation for nearly a year. Of particular interest was Naylon's association with the Hell's Outcasts, an East Metro-based motorcycle gang with a history of drug smuggling. For months, local, state, and federal agencies had been flummoxed in their efforts to nab ranking members of the gang. Targets always seemed to slip through their fingers at the last second. Officers began to suspect that Naylon—who was prone to boasting about his close relationships with known high-end criminals—was thwarting their efforts.

On a chilly early-November night in 2004, the FBI had set up a sting operation in the Kelly Inn, what's known in bureau parlance as an "integrity test."

Naylon had failed miserably.

The bust came as no surprise to those who knew him in the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department.

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