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Ousted Sturgeon police chief ‘vindicated’ by jury win

A Boone County jury awarded a former small-town police chief more than $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages over a disputed firing that city leaders blamed on alcohol abuse and reckless conduct — but which the ex-cop said was retaliation by an alderman whose friend, also police officer, was under criminal investigation.

Sturgeon police chief Greg Halderman, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, was fired in 2017, with city officials in the northern Boone County town of fewer than 900 people compiling a 33-page dossier on his alleged misconduct. 

He then sued the city, its mayor and the four members of the Sturgeon Board of Aldermen, which voted 3-1 to support his ouster. 

In 2019, Boone County Circuit Judge Jeff Harris ruled on summary judgment that the move violated Halderman’s due process rights and ordered he be reinstated as chief. The town’s board called an emergency closed meeting and quickly placed him on administrative leave without pay. The suit was subsequently amended, with former Alderman Tyler Patterson the sole remaining named defendant other than the municipality.

The jury reached its verdict on the final day of a weeklong trial after nearly five hours of deliberation.

“We are tremendously pleased that he has been vindicated by a jury of his peers,” said J. Andrew Hirth, who represented Halderman. “This jury has sent a powerful message to city councils across the state not to interject politics into local law enforcement.”

Halderman was fired after reporting to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department a possible domestic assault and child neglect by one of his officers, Hirth said. Halderman also reported that Patterson had improperly removed the chief’s personnel file from city offices.

The complaint further alleges that Halderman was fired for “refusing a directive” from the mayor and a different alderman to run an unlawful criminal background check on a political opponent of the mayor.

Jefferson City defense attorney Kim Guthrie declined comment on behalf of both Patterson and the city. 

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$315,000 verdict


Breakdown: $300,000 in compensatory damages, $15,000 in punitive damages

Venue: Boone County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 17BA-CV01543/July 30, 2021

Judge: Jeff Harris

First Pretrial Demand: $500,000

First Pretrial Offer: $0

Insurer: Missouri Public Entity Risk Management (for city of Sturgeon)

Caption: Greg Halderman v. City of Sturgeon, Missouri; Gene Kelly; Tyler Patterson; Rhonda Dawson; Travis Sutton; and Danny Joiner

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Andy Hirth and Joanna Trachtenberg, TGH Litigation, Columbia

Defendants’ Attorney: Michael Berry, Newman Comley & Rush, Jefferson City