Ousted Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen was in a power struggle with Medina city manager Donna Hanson -- until an investigation into improper access to the email archives of everyone in the city, including the city council and mayor, pointed to the police department, according to the city's defense attorney on Tuesday.
Attorney Suzanne Michael gave her opening statement in Chen's bias lawsuit against Medina City Manager Donna Hanson and the city of Medina on Tuesday before the jury of four men and four women in U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly's courtroom.
Chen's attorney, Marianne Jones, delivered a statement on Chen's side on Monday.
Chen is suing the city in federal court for racial discrimination and damage to his professional reputation despite his 23 years of law enforcement experience.
Michael said that Chen, promoted to chief in 2004, tried to undermine Hanson, who has been city manager since 2008, by complaining about her treatment of him to his allies on the city council.
According to Michael, Hanson's job was on the line at a city council meeting on Dec. 13, 2010 -- and Chen had been expecting her to be fired based on his allies on the council.
However, less than a week later, Hanson still had her job and it was Chen who handed in his letter of resignation.
According to Michael's statement, the city brought in an outside investigator in late 2010 to look into who was improperly accessing the city's MX Logic system, a computer system that gave access to the archives of the email messages of everyone in the city.
According to the city's defense, city clerk Rachel Baker alerted Hanson in October that someone repeatedly had used the city clerk's login for MX Logic. Only the city clerk and a city IT person, Craig Fischer, were allowed to have access to the system, which would have enabled someone logged in to read the email messages of everyone employed with the city and the city council.
Fischer admitted that he was using his own login to access the archives from his home, and was disciplined for doing so, Michael said, but Fischer said that he was not the one using Baker's login.
Among the IP addresses used to log into the MX Logic system was the police department, according to Michael, and Baker said she had previously given Chen her password after he asked her to give it to him to help in a police investigation.
When attorney Michael Bolasina, hired by the city to investigate who was accessing the email system, asked Chen about the login, he denied it in an interview. But then Chen delayed signing a transcript of his interview until the December city council meeting in which he expected Hanson to be fired, according to Michael.
Days after that council meeting, rather than sign a transcript of the interview, Chen resigned, but he tried to return days later. Rather than reinstate Chen, Hanson put him on administrative leave and launched an investigation of him.
That culminated in Hanson , including lying during two city investigations, abusing his position in voiding some traffic tickets, making improper purchases and improperly accessing the city’s email archives.
Chen was put on leave until April 2011, when he was fired, despite dozens of residents speaking up for Chen at multiple City Council meetings in his support.
The suit claims that the city of Medina violated Chen's rights when Hanson fired him last April and says that she denied him due process when they fired him and discriminated against him because he is a racial minority. Chen is Chinese-American. Zilly had earlier limited the scope of the lawsuit, dismissing Chen's claim of a hostile work environment.
Jones also said that Chen's firing in Medina has made him unable to find another job in law enforcement. .
The trial is expected to last until March 22.
- Ousted Medina Police Chief Charges Racism in Lawsuit Against City (Jan. 13, 2012)
- Medina Residents Pressure Council Over Police Chief Firing (June 14, 2011)
- Medina City Council Takes Heat Over Police Chief's Firing (May 10, 2011)
- Medina Releases Documents On Chief Jeffrey Chen's Termination (April 29, 2011)
- Medina Names Lt. Dan Yourkoski Acting Police Chief (April 29, 2011)
- Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen Fired (April 28, 2011)
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