Appeals Court: Department of Corrections had right to fire Stillwater Prison warden

Steven Hammer was dismissed in 2016, amid complaints dating back to 2014.
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A decision to fire the former warden of Stillwater Prison was the correct one, Minnesota's Court of Appeals has ruled.

In an opinion released on Monday, the judges disagreed with a decision by an arbitrator to reverse the 2016 firing of Steven Hammer.

He became the warden of MCF-Stillwater in 2015, but most of the complaints stemmed from his time at MCF-Rush City, when he was alleged to have sent lewd emails to several women using his state account, including one in which he suggested the recipient send him naked pictures.

He was also accused of sending inappropriate emails to male employees at the prison, and other messages in which he disclosed private information about employees to a female MCF-Rush City worker.

Also, during a meeting with the MCF-Rush City HR director and an employee who had filed a harassment complaint against him, Hammer allegedly "snapped," calling the worker "a f------ worthless employee ... [and] a bully."

He's then alleged to have tore up the complaint, saying: "This is what I think of your complaint. It is not worth the paper it is written on."

An investigator who looked into Hammer's conduct said he "engaged in abusive, intimidating and disrespectful ways toward employees."

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An arbitrator found that the sexually explicit emails sent by Hammer violated DOC policy, but felt the DOC hadn't proved the abusive conduct allegations were serious enough "to bypass discipline and move directly to discharge" – mainly because they were reported initially in 2014 and no action was taken till 2016.

However, the appeals court found that the reports about Hammer's behavior in 2014 was incomplete, and that supervisors were not aware he'd tore up a harassment complaint in front of others.

Ultimately, the court ruled that because of the nature of the complaints against Hammer, the DOC was not required to impose "progressive discipline" on him, given his actions were enough to allow for dismissal under its policies.

Hammer did not comment when asked by KSTP. He could now choose to appeal his case to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

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