This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






In the Matter of:

International Falls Police Civil Service

Hearing of John Arthur Decker


Filed April 11, 2006

Klaphake, Judge


International Falls Police Civil Service Commission



Brian N. Toder, Chestnut & Cambronne, P.A., 3700 Campbell Mithun Tower, 222 South Ninth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for relator John Arthur Decker)


Patricia Y. Beety, League of Minnesota Cities, 145 University Avenue West, St. Paul, MN  55103-2044 (for respondent International Falls Police Civil Service Commission)


Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., Office of the City Attorney, 235 Fourth Avenue, International Falls, MN  56649 (for respondent International Falls Police Department)


            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Relator John Arthur Decker, a former police officer, challenges the most recent decision of the International Falls Police Civil Service Commission (commission) on his wrongful termination claim against the International Falls Police Department (IFPD), following this court’s reversal and remand of the matter.  See In re Civil Serv. Hearing of Decker, No. A04-343 (Minn. App. Dec. 7, 2004), review denied (Minn. Feb. 15, 2005).  Because the commission’s amended findings and decision address the proper criteria and are supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.


            A court reviewing an employment termination decision by a civil service commission must determine, based on the evidence, whether “the order of the commission [was] reasonable[.]”  Minn. Stat. § 419.12 (2002).  A court may alter an agency decision if, among other reasons, it is “unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted” or it is “arbitrary or capricious.”  Minn. Stat. § 14.69 (e), (f) (2002).  The party challenging an agency’s decision “has the burden of proof on appeal.”  Minn. Ctr. for Envtl. Advocacy v. Comm’r of Minn. Pollution Control Agency, 696 N.W.2d 95, 100 (Minn. App. 2005).  A reviewing court will not defer to a commission’s decision if “there is a combination of danger signals which suggest the agency has not taken a hard look at the salient problems and the decision lacks articulated standards and reflective findings.” Id. (quotations omitted).

            Relator claims that the commission’s amended findings are insufficient and fail to address the issues that this court directed the commission to address on remand.  Two charges concern relator’s use or transfer of property to which IFPD had access in an evidence storage room at the Koochiching County Law Enforcement Center, and one charge concerns relator’s misstatements of fact regarding his whereabouts while on duty and his simultaneous failure to appear on behalf of IFPD at a scheduled emergency drill.    

            As to the first charge, removal of a TV/DVD unit from the evidence storage room, the commission made 20 separate findings supporting its decision that relator’s taking of the TV/DVD constituted misconduct.  These findings show that (1) relator took a TV/DVD unit from the evidence room; (2) the TV/DVD was in a factory-sealed box; (3) a standard-sized piece of paper in plain view on the box indicated that the item was evidence in a pending case; (4) relator admitted to having the TV/DVD at his residence for several months for surveillance purposes; and (5) relator only returned the TV/DVD after issuance of a search warrant. 

            Relator argues that the commission was “evasive” in failing to address the directive of this court regarding whether relator “knowingly” engaged in misconduct.  The evidence and findings, however, show that relator knew his conduct was wrong.  Relator did not follow proper procedures or seek approval to remove the TV/DVD, and he failed to return the property even when asked to do so.  This evidence, while circumstantial, supports finding that relator committed a knowing violation of IFPD policy.  See State v. Rhodes, 657 N.W.2d 823, 840 (Minn. 2003) (intent may be inferred from circumstantial evidence).

            With respect to the second charge, transfer of a scanner to the Koochiching County Attorney, the commission found that (1) relator removed a scanner from the evidence room; (2) the scanner was in a box marked with evidence tape and the initials of a sheriff’s deputy for Koochiching County; (3) relator removed the scanner without checking with that deputy; (4) the scanner was the subject of an incomplete forfeiture proceeding; and (5) relator lent the scanner to the county attorney.

            Relator contends that the commission’s findings ignore this court’s directive to distinguish between the charge against relator, which was that he violated a rule of criminal procedure, and its earlier findings, which state that he violated a rule of evidence.  The original complaint charges relator with “[r]emoval of evidence (hand-held scanner) from temporary evidence/property room.”  The alleged violation, however, states that the IFPD policy manual prohibits police officers from “knowingly disobey[ing] the law or rules of criminal procedure in such areas as . . . preservation of evidence.”  The commission’s findings set forth the charge, make specific findings on the evidence that sustains the charge, and make credibility determinations that are favorable to its ultimate determination.  While we remain troubled by the lack of clarity in the charges, we conclude that the charges were sufficient to put appellant on notice of the conduct and the IFPD violations that formed the basis for his dismissal.         

            Relator claims that the remaining charge, that he made false statements to the police chief about the occasion of his missing a scheduled emergency drill at a local community college, is not supported by the evidence.  Relator admits that he did not attend the drill, but denies making any false statements to the police chief about why he missed the drill.  The commission found relator’s testimony “not credible,” and further found that relator (1) skipped the drill because he was angry with county deputies; (2) stated that he had not been with the county attorney during the drill; (3) lied to a fellow officer about his whereabouts during the drill; and (4) insinuated that the police chief was untruthful in recounting their conversation after the missed drill.  Because credibility determinations are for the commission and the testimony of the police chief and other officers support the charge, the commission’s conclusion on this charge is sustained. 

            Relator further contends that the commission ignored this court’s directive to make amended findings that reflect the commission’s decision-making process for purposes of ensuring adequate review.  By making the credibility determinations that it did, the commission addressed some of this court’s concerns.  The commission also found that relator’s act of missing the emergency drill to spend time with the county attorney “reflects both poor judgment and insubordination,” that relator showed no remorse for his conduct, and that relator’s conduct reflected poorly on the whole department.  These findings adequately support relator’s termination. 

            Relator also claims that the commission failed to follow the directive of this court because it allowed Patricia Beety, who represented both the City of International Falls and IFPD, to be present in commission meetings, but declined to allow relator to attend meetings or make further submissions to the commission.  Decisions of administrative bodies “enjoy a presumption of correctness.”  In re Petition of N. States Power Co., 676 N.W.2d 326, 331 (Minn. App. 2004).  Further, disciplinary proceedings are not subject to the open meeting law requiring all meetings of state agencies to be open to the public.  See In re Hutchinson, 440 N.W.2d 171, 175 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. Aug. 9, 1989).  Thus, the fact that relator was not allowed to attend the meetings of the commission following remand does not merit further action by this court.  The commission, upon remand, reviewed the existing record and made proper findings to support its decision.  This court did not conclude that the existing record was insufficient, merely that the commission’s findings were inadequate.  Further, the commission’s decision is tied to the record evidence, which included the testimony of law enforcement officers and other documentary evidence, and is supported by adequate findings.  Procedurally, all that is required of a quasi-judicial act is that it be “the product or result of investigation, consideration and deliberate human judgment based upon evidentiary facts of some sort.”  Press v. City of Minneapolis, 553 N.W.2d 80, 83 (Minn. App. 1996) (quotation omitted).  We therefore affirm the decision of the commission on remand.