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Ousted police chief retains award after city’s appeal

The former police chief of a small Missouri town is still owed $315,000 in damages due to an unlawful termination, but his judgment against an alderman who helped oust him was reversed by the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District.

The Board of Aldermen in Sturgeon, a town of fewer than 900 people, voted 3-1 in 2017 to fire Greg Halderman, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, because of his alleged misconduct.

Halderman had reported to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department a possible domestic assault and child neglect by one of his officers, said J. Andrew Hirth, who represented Halderman.

Halderman also reported that Tyler Patterson, an alderman, improperly removed the chief’s personnel file from city offices.

Halderman sued the city, its mayor and the four members of the board.

In 2019, Boone County Circuit Judge Jeff Harris ruled on summary judgment that the firing violated Halderman’s due process rights and ordered he be reinstated as chief. The town’s board called an emergency closed meeting and placed him on administrative leave without pay. The chief then amended the suit, leaving Patterson and the city as the only defendants.

In 2021, a jury awarded Halderman $300,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 punitive damages. According to court records, the judge later converted the punitive award to actual damages at the request of the parties. Harris also awarded nearly $480,000 in attorneys’ fees and interest.

On appeal, the city challenged both the summary judgment ruling and the jury verdict. The Western District rejected its arguments in a May 2 opinion.

The court did, however, reverse the judgment against Patterson for tortious interference with a contract. Judge Alok Ahuja wrote that Patterson “was a City Alderman and therefore not a third party to Halderman’s contract with the City.” As such, he could “not be held liable for tortiously interfering with that contract.”

Even though the jury’s $15,000 award was against Patterson alone, the city is still liable for the full $315,000, plus attorneys’ fees and interest, according to Hirth.

“It doesn’t make much of a practical difference to Greg Halderman,” Hirth stated in an email.

The attorneys representing Patterson and the city did not respond to requests for comment.

The case is Halderman v. City of Sturgeon, WD85066.


Ousted Sturgeon police chief ‘vindicated’ by jury win


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