Mendota Heights cop’s promotion opens the door to his firing

If a Mendota Heights police officer hadn’t been promoted, he might still have a job.

The Pioneer Press reports that Sgt. Bobby Lambert goes before the City Council tonight after the city’s police chief recommended he be fired for mistakes he made while investigating a drug-overdose death. What mistakes? Nobody will say, of course.

“It’s been going on for a long time,” Lambert, 43, told the newspaper. “They finally came up with something they believe is something worthy of terminating me, I guess.”

Lambert says the police chief is retaliating for Lambert’s insistence in 2012 that police conduct an inquiry into the apparent theft of a picnic table by another police officer — Sgt. Eric Peterson.

That’s the same incident that prompted a lawsuit against the city by officer Scott Patrick, who accused the chief and others of harassment and workplace retaliation. A few months later, Patrick was killed during a traffic stop.

A fascinating aspect of the case is this: Lambert’s promotion opened the opportunity for someone to fire him.

Under the contract between the city and Lambert’s union — the Minnesota Public Employees Association — Lambert is still in his probationary period as a sergeant and “may be terminated at the sole discretion of the employer,” a memo to the council from the police chief and city administrator reads.

All of this will take place in secret. The council discussed the firing in a closed meeting earlier.

“I think when all of this finally does become public information you’ll totally understand why,” the police chief told the Pioneer Press. “There are always two sides to every story. This is not something that anyone would ever willy-nilly choose to do.”