Skip to main content

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

Minneapolis police

Man found yelling for help after being shot in Minneapolis

The shooting occurred on the 800 block of Elwood Avenue North at around 9:15 p.m.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.56.21 AM

Minneapolis North principal says she was fired, district says otherwise

“MPS requires schools to follow protocols in times like that and I did not,” Friestleben said.

Kris Richard Severin

Inmate who escaped Minnesota prison is captured

The inmate escaped Wednesday morning.

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.

14869-Manitou-Road-NE-Prior-Lake-MN-55372-6110268-image37

Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.

Growlers

Signs that MN Legislature could move to loosen liquor laws

A provision was approved by a legislature committee on Thursday but still awaits a final decision from the House and Senate.

US Bank Stadium

U.S. Bank Stadium looking to hire 400 part-time workers

A hiring fair will be held for the positions.

Related

More details emerge about Stillwater prison guard's killing

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

James Francis Howard

Convicted murderer dies at Rush City prison in possible homicide

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is among the authorities investigating.

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.

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.