Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Attorney Ordered to Pay Woodville

The Kevin Sheridan saga in the Village of Woodville may well be over with a St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge's decision ordering Sheridan's attorney, Harry Hertel, and his law firm, Hertel & Gibbs, S.C., in his lawsuit against the Woodville Police Review Board to pay $3,262.57 to the Village of Woodville in compensation for defending what the judge determined was a frivolous claim.

Sheridan was the former Police Chief of Woodville who was terminated by the Police Review Board for misconduct in September 2006 after an evidentiary hearing.

The decision by Judge Edward F. Vlack was reached on December 21 of last year.

In his "Memorandum Decision and Order" Judge Vlack noted that "when imposing sanctions, the court shall describe the conduct determined to constitute a violation of this rule and the basis for the sanction imposed.ŠFirst, the Court finds that Mr. Hertel failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts of the claims." And that the claim that Sheridan's constitutional right of free speech was violated is frivolous.

Second of the reasons given for awarding Woodville damages from the law firm is "Mr. Hertel knew or should have known that there was no basis in the law to support his claims."

And as the third reason, "Mr. Hertel had the opportunity to withdraw or dismiss once he realized there may have been no basis in the law or facts to support his contention."

Finally, wrote Judge Vlack "[m]ost importantly, Mr. Hertel was given another opportunity to withdraw or dismiss [in January 2007] when the board's attorney served Mr. Hertel with a copy of the motion for frivolous claim and indicated that pursuant to statute, she would wait the necessary 21 days before filing the motion. In this 21-day period, Mr. Hertel did not respond to the Board's attorney, nor did he make a motion to withdraw, supply law that supported his argument or anything else that would seem reasonable, but instead stated that during this period he relied on his client alone."

Judge Vlack wrote that "Mr. Hertel's actions here rise to the level of imposing sanctions against him in the form of attorneys fees for the Board in having to defend against this frivolous claim."

According to the decision, the facts of the case include the findings by the Police Review Board that "Sheridan's removal was required and his employment must be terminated because Mr. Sheridan refused to wear a uniform on duty; his action of hand-marking the village police car in violation of department practice was police misconductŠ; Mr. Sheridan violated policies and the Village Personnel Manual by refusing to obey Village Board orders, intimidating Village Board members, and being publicly disrespectful to superior officers while on duty; Mr. Sheridan violated Village OrdinanceŠby smoking in the office of the Woodville Police Department; he violated policies and procedures by using the Woodville squad car for personal use; and he wrote "Woodville Police Department" with window wax on the village squad car.