Publish date:

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

Steven Hammer was dismissed in 2016, amid complaints dating back to 2014.

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."

Today's Top Stories

– Vikings launch live show with studio audience at team headquarters.

– Want tickets to "Hamilton" in Minneapolis? Here's what to do next.

– Sign up for our daily newsletters.

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.

Next Up

sun country landline

Sun Country to offer luxury car service to MSP Airport

It's Sun Country's new Door-to-Door service, in partnership with Landline.

st. paul homicide - 30 block of Winnipeg Avenue West

St. Paul man arrested after calling police to report he killed his wife

The man was outside the police station when he called 911.


Highly contagious rabbit disease detected for first time in MN

Two indoor rabbits "died suddenly and inexplicably" from the disease earlier this month.

Salted Nut Roll

New seasonal varieties of the Salted Nut Roll have arrived

There will never be enough pumpkin spice to satisfy the world.

covid-19, coronavirus

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, September 28

The newest information provided by the Minnesota Department of Health.

police lights

Minnesota man charged after 3-hour standoff with police on I-94 in Wisconsin

Law enforcement used tear gas on him in an effort to get him out of the vehicle.

Pamela Espeland (1)

Beloved MinnPost writer who amplified MN arts scene dies suddenly

The arts community is remembering her impact and mourning her death.

Abbey Piner

Missing Aitkin County woman may be in St. Paul area

Law enforcement are asking for the public's help in finding her.

box elder bugs

The boxelder bug invasion has commenced in Minnesota

They love to cluster in sunny and warm locations.

chaska school fight

Fight breaks out over mask policy at Eastern Carver County School Board meeting

The district on Monday updated its mask policy to require them for all students.

Bemidji City Hall

Public's help sought after shooting kills father of five girls

The father of five girls was fatally shot in early September.


More details emerge about Stillwater prison guard's killing

Joseph Gomm was killed in an attack by an inmate on Wednesday.

Stillwater inmate charged with murder of Joseph Gomm

Edward Muhammad Johnson is accused of inflicting fatal injuries on Gomm last month.

Stillwater MCF

Inmate with COVID-19 dies amid major outbreak at Stillwater prison

Almost two-thirds of inmates at the prison have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic started.

James Francis Howard

Convicted murderer dies at Rush City prison in possible homicide

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is among the authorities investigating.

Edward Muhammad Johnson

Inmate who killed Stillwater corrections officer sentenced to life in prison

Edward Muhammad Johnson pleaded guilty to killing Joseph Gomm on Friday and was immediately sentenced.

Inmate attacks officer, Stillwater prison on lockdown

The sergeant was attacked and suffered serious injuries.