Former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon and his lawyers filed a lawsuit against the city of Brooklyn Center, City Manager Reggie Edwards, and City Councilmember Marquita Butler on Aug. 3.
The suit alleges that the city retaliated against Gannon in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act, breached its employment contact with Gannon, discriminated against Gannon because of his race and violated open meeting laws.
Gannon has also accused Edwards of discriminating against him because of his race, and accused Butler of defamation.
The accusations tie back to the April 2021 fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by then-Officer Kim Potter, the firing of former City Manager Curt Boganey and Gannon's ultimate resignation from the police force.
According to the lawsuit, Gannon attended a community engagement meeting the morning of April 12, the day after Wright was fatally shot, when community members and activists asked if he planned to immediately terminate Potter's employment.
Gannon “responded that he would not immediately terminate Officer Potter because her collective bargaining agreement ('CBA') entitled her to certain procedural rights and that (Gannon) would not take any action against Potter in violation of the rights afforded to her by her CBA,” the lawsuit reads.
The meeting was followed by a media briefing where Gannon played body-worn camera footage of the incident.
He repeated that he could not immediately terminate Potter's employment due to her union contract, and said that he “believed law enforcement had used the minimal amount of force necessary to secure the (police department) and the safety of citizens and officers” during times of protest.
Later that day the City Council called an emergency meeting, where Gannon was not allowed to speak, according to the lawsuit.
Mayor Mike Elliott then called for a closed session to discuss an employee under review, the lawsuit states. Boganey was included in this meeting.
Gannon's legal team alleges that the meeting was closed to discuss his performance as police chief.
He “was never notified that the Council intended to hold a closed session to evaluate or discuss his performance before the Council went into the closed session,” the lawsuit reads. “Similarly, (Gannon) was not identified as the individual who was going to be evaluated prior to the closed meeting. The Council failed to provide (Gannon) with the opportunity to request that the meeting regarding him be open to the public, and the Council also failed to summarize its discussion or conclusions regarding Plaintiff reached at its next open meeting.”
The lawsuit alleges that the City Council directed Boganey to fire Gannon.
Boganey refused to fire Gannon without due process in accordance with “a promise he had made to (Gannon) earlier in the year,” the lawsuit states.
That is, Boganey told Gannon that he would have an opportunity to address any allegations against him and explain his decision making before the city would take any “adverse action against him,” according to the lawsuit.
“When the Council returned from the closed session, and went back into special session, they announced that Boganey had refused to terminate (Gannon),” the lawsuit states. “Multiple individuals, who upon information and belief were encouraged by Elliot to attend the special session, addressed the City Council and demanded that Boganey be terminated. The discussion became racially charged. One African American female who was invited to speak directed her comments at Boganey, stating, '[h]ow could a black man allow this activity to happen?', or words to that effect. Boganey appeared to be visibly upset by this comment.”
The council voted 4-1 to terminate Boganey's employment.
Edwards, then Deputy City Manager, was tapped to replace Boganey.
“Following the vote to terminate Boganey, (Gannon) witnessed Council member Lawrence-Anderson approach Boganey and say, '[d]o you know why I voted to remove you?' Boganey stated, 'No, I don’t know why.'” the lawsuit states. “Lawrence-Anderson then said, “[b]ecause I was afraid they would fire-bomb my house!'”
The council had another meeting that evening.
Elliott was not present, according to the lawsuit, and Butler served as acting mayor.
During the meeting, Butler “criticized (Gannon), attacked his leadership of the Police Department, and stated that he was 'Anti-Community.'” the lawsuit states. “Butler also stated that '(Gannon) has been difficult to work with at times'; and that 'When it counted, (Gannon) did not show up in the right way for the community.”
The comments form the crux of Gannon's defamation suit against Butler.
“These statements were false, made with malice, racially divisive, and were made with the intent to imply that (Gannon’s) actions in response to the protests did not serve the city’s Black community members,” the lawsuit states.
Gannon's lawyers argue that Butler made “knowingly false statements,” and that her conduct “impugned his professional reputation and lowered his reputation in the estimation of the community. Butler made these statements in bad faith, with malicious intent, and knowing of their falsity or in reckless disregard of the truth.”
“This is a legal matter and I am not able to comment at this time,” Butler wrote in an email to the Sun Post.
During the meeting, the council directed Edwards to fire Gannon and Potter. He told the council he would make a decision the following day.
“At or around 10:00 AM on April 13, 2021, (Gannon) met with Edwards,” the lawsuit states. “Without explanation, Edwards told (Gannon) that the city needed a new Police Chief to run the department. Edwards did not provide Plaintiff with any type of due process to include notice of the allegations and/or accusations against him and/or the opportunity to address any allegations and/or accusations. Edwards then offered (Gannon) the opportunity to resign in lieu of termination. The city had already prepared a press conference for Elliott to announce (Gannon's) termination.”
Gannon resigned after the meeting.
The Minnesota Whistleblower Act “prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, threatening or penalizing an employee because the employee reported, in good faith, a violation or suspected violation of any federal, state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official,” according to the lawsuit.
In court documents, Gannon's legal team claims that he was protected by the Whistleblower Act when he reported that immediate termination of Potter's employment would violate the terms of her union contract, and that by forcing him to resign, the city and Edwards violated the law.
The lawsuit also alleges that the city and Edwards violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 when they “terminated (Gannon's) employment because of (Gannon's) race.”
The suit alleges that the city breached its contract with Gannon by not affording him the due process he was owed before forcing him to either resign or be fired and not allowing him to speak on his behalf.
According to the lawsuit, Gannon requested under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act a variety of documents, emails, text messages and any other communications related to his employment and the decision to terminate his employment.
The city has not provided those documents, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the city violated state open meeting laws through its conduct at meetings reviewing Gannon's employment.
The suit states that Gannon has suffered damages “in an amount in excess of $50,000.”
Gannon's lawyers asked for a judgment that includes “compensatory damages including loss of past and future income, emotional distress, and related damages,” among other damages.
The Sun Post reached out to Gannon's lawyers, Edwards, a city spokesperson, Elliott and Lawrence-Anderson for comment. None of the immediately replied.