Incoming MPD Chief Janeé Harteau suspended cops based on "rumor and innuendo"

Harteau relieved a colleague of duty, then allegedly said to him: "I hope you are enjoying your new job."
Harteau relieved a colleague of duty, then allegedly said to him: "I hope you are enjoying your new job."

SEE ALSO: Assistant Chief Janeé Harteau nominated to become first female MPD police chief

Next January, Assistant Chief Janeé Harteau will replace Tim Dolan as MPD chief.

But a whistleblower lawsuit working its way through civil court right now makes Harteau seem like a petty, vindictive superior. According to a Fox 9 report, Harteau recently testified to relieving two of the MPD's top investigators of their duties in February 2011 based on "rumor and innuendo." She now blames MPD Deputy Chief Scott Gerlicher for "withholding information" from her before she made the decision to suspend them.

The two officers who were suspended on that February day, Lt. Andrew Smith and Sgt. Pat King, are seeking more than $600,000 in damages. Smith said he and King believe being relieved of their duties for doing nothing more than their jobs could "destroy our careers and reputation." Though they were both reassigned to less prestigious positions within hours of their dismissal by Harteau, Smith and King allege they were demoted simply because they led an investigation into MPD corruption.

According to a Star Tribune article from April 2011, Patrick Burns, the attorney for Smith and King, characterized the duo as "the go-to guys in the department for complex investigations" prior to their demotions.

In the summer of 2007, Chief Dolan wanted to investigate possible corruption within the MPD. Because of concerns that the internal affairs units might've been involved, Dolan bypassed internal affairs chief Scott Gerlicher and asked Smith and King to spearhead the investigation instead.

Officer Mike Roberts ended up being the only officer convicted as a result of Smith and King's work. Roberts eventually admitted to selling information to a crack dealer for $200, as Fox notes. Dolan, in a 2010 letter to Smith and King cited in the lawsuit, was apparently aware of the possibility that the duo could experience some blowback, writing, "I am aware that there is potential for retaliation towards you as the result of [the Roberts] investigation."

Indeed, Gerlicher was allegedly embittered by Dolan's snub and had a vendetta against Smith and King from 2007 forward. Smith said Gerlicher pursued a "witch hunt" against King and himself, adding that "no matter what we did, Gerlicher was going to find a problem or manufacture a problem." Smith and King became outcasts -- at one point, a plastic rat was hung from a noose outside their office.

Gerlicher apparently had the ear of Assistant Chief Harteau, who called Smith and King into a meeting with herself and Gerlicher in February 2011 and relieved them of duty. Gerlicher, during that meeting, cited "management issues" as the reason for the personnel move. Just hours later, Smith was told by Deputy Chief Rob Allen that he was "no longer relieved of duty" and was being reassigned to the juvenile unit. King, for his part, was given a job with the MPD's licensing division.

While Harteau now pins responsibility for her February 2011 decision on Gerlicher, she allegedly spent at least part of last year basking in Smith and King's misery. From the Strib's report on some of the civil lawsuit's ongoing testimony:

Smith said he ran into Harteau at a training session, where he said Harteau smirked and said, "Andy, I hope you are enjoying your new job."

Said Smith, "She seemed to be enjoying my misery."

In the lawsuit, Smith and King name the city, Harteau, and Gerlicher as defendants. Both Dolan and Gerlicher are expected to testify yet this week, so stay tuned.

CORRECTION -- An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Harteau "fired" Smith and King during the February 2011 meeting. In fact, Smith and King were "relieved of duty" (i.e., suspended), but not fired. We apologize for the error.

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