MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (KMSP) - Mendota Heights Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener resigned Tuesday, 6 weeks after residents held a protest demanding a change in leadership.
Aschenbrener had served as chief since 2003, but in recent years had been accused of targeting officers for speaking up about issues within the department, including the late Officer Scott Patrick.
Michelle Patrick reached a settlement last year with the City of Mendota Heights in a civil case that began 4 months before her husband was shot and killed during a traffic stop. Officer Patrick’s lawsuit claimed whistleblower harassment and workplace retaliation.
Scott Patrick lawsuit
According to the lawsuit, the trouble began 8 years ago, when Officer Patrick saw 2 fellow officers moving a picnic table to city hall from the old Lilydale Tennis Club, which was being demolished. Patrick reported what he considered to be a property theft by city employees to Chief Aschenbrener, who, according to the lawsuit, thought it wasn't theft but a "mistake in judgment." Patrick filed a complaint against the chief alleging "a pattern of questionable ethics and criminal violations."
In January of 2012, Chief Aschenbrener suspended Patrick for a week, after Patrick arrested a stranded motorist for disorderly conduct. A snow plow driver backed up the officer's story, saying the woman was angry, and said Patrick "was dealing with her the best he could." He was also criticized for not having his squad car video activated. On appeal, a state mediator reduced the punishment to just a written reprimand.
Patrick documented the retaliation. One day, his squad car was moved by a sergeant who parked it just inches away from another squad, keeping Patrick, who was admittedly overweight, from getting into his squad. There was also an incident involving a label of rat poison getting slipped into Patrick's locker.
And just days before he was killed, Patrick was suspended once more, for a day, for failing to turn over the audio recordings he'd made documenting his conversations with the chief.
Sgt. Bobby Lambert firing
This past summer, the Mendota Heights City Council terminated Patrick’s partner, Sgt. Bobby Lambert, in front of an overflow crowd that publicly supported Lambert and called for Aschenbrener’s firing.
Lambert, a 20-year veteran of the department, was in a probationary period for his new supervisory assignment when the chief sought to fire him. Lambert said he was fired for mistakes made during a drug-overdose death, but doesn’t believe those mistakes should have cost him his job.
Lambert released the following statement in response to Aschenbrener’s resignation:
"I'm happy for the city, its employees, residents and business owners for the pending resignation of Mendota Heights' Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener. It's unfortunate that this change took so long and at the cost of so many families' health and well being. But I'm grateful that the good citizens of our city have spoken loud and clear during this past election. A clear message has been sent that the unethical conduct of city leaders will not be tolerated. I look forward to having the opportunity to continue my service with the Mendota Heights Police Department."
Aschenbrener’s resignation was accepted by the Mendota heights City Council at Tuesday’s meeting. Capt. Kelly McCarthy has been appointed the new police chief.