Northwest Asian Weekly
Former Medina Police Chief Jeffrey Chen’s wrongful-termination lawsuit against the city of Medina will finally be seeing a trial by jury. However, the lawsuit will be without several claims that were thrown out by the judge.
The trial is scheduled to begin on March 11.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly rejected on Thursday, Feb. 7 Chen’s claim that he was subjected to a hostile workplace. The decision follows an earlier rejection of a claim that multiple members of the Medina city government conspired to fire the then police chief.
In his order dismissing the claim, Zilly wrote that comments made by City Manager Donna Hanson and former Mayor Bret Jordan did not create a hostile work environment because the comment did not interfere with Chen’s ability to do his work.
Chen claimed that he first began experiencing issues with the city manager following an investigation into the leak of important information by a city employee who logged into the police department’s archiving system.
Chen was dismissed from his position following a somewhat bizarre release of a public resignation letter in December of 2010, followed by a quick rescinding of his letter six days later. He then released a seven-page letter to the Medina City Council stating that he quit because he was being forced out by City Manager Donna Hanson.
Chen was put on administrative leave following his rescinding, pending the results of an investigation led by private investigator and Bellevue attorney Ellen Lenhart. The investigation eventually found Chen guilty on six counts: dishonesty, abuse of his position as chief, unauthorized removal and/or destruction of public records, improper access of city records, improper access of the city’s e-mail archives, and loss of confidence by subordinate officers.
Among Lenhart’s findings were issues concerning “several purchases [Chen] had authorized using city funds … missing or voided tickets that had been issued by MPD officers and then voided by [Chen] without the issuing officers’ knowledge, and documents that had purportedly been authored by MPD officers and then approved by Chief Chen, but which the officers claim they did not author.”
Chen was officially dismissed on April 27, 2011. The dismissal was not well received by members of the community.
Community members contended that he had been good for the city, reducing crime to nearly nonexistent levels, though they said he did sometimes use extreme measures.
During his tenure, the city of Medina installed a camera system that would scan and search every license plate that entered the city. The police department also purchased four machine guns to protect the city, which is home to Bill Gates, amongst other high profile community members.
At a city council meeting in January 2011, a vote was called to dismiss Hanson, but failed by a vote of 5–2. In a May 2011 meeting, a petition requesting Chen’s reinstatement, signed by approximately 100 Medina and Hunts Point residents, was presented to the Medina city council. This represents roughly three percent of the combined populations of Medina and Hunts Point, according to the 2010 census.
Neither Jeff Chen or his attorney returned a request for comment. (end)
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