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Hilde v. City of Eveleth

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 4, 2013

Lt. Leroy Hilde, Plaintiff,
v.
The City of Eveleth, Defendant

Page 1069

Andrew P. Muller, Muller & Muller, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, John A. Klassen, John A. Klassen, PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Patricia Y. Beety, Jana M. O'Leary Sullivan, League of Minnesota Cities, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Defendant.

OPINION

Page 1070

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Leroy Hilde has worked for Defendant, the City of Eveleth, Minnesota (the " City" ), as a police officer for the past 29 years, serving as Lieutenant, the City's second-highest-ranking officer, since 1998. In January 2012, the City's Chief of Police, Brian Lillis, announced his intention to retire. Hilde was among five applicants for Lillis's position but was not selected. He then commenced this action, alleging he was passed over for the position on account of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (" MHRA" ), Minn. Stat. § 363A.01 et seq. Presently before the Court is the City's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

When viewed in the light most favorable to Hilde, the record reveals the following facts. The Court notes that most of the pertinent facts are undisputed.

I. The department and Hilde's background

The City has a small police force, comprising approximately a dozen officers including a Chief of Police, a Lieutenant, two or three Sergeants, and several patrol officers. The Lieutenant is second in command, generally charged with overseeing the department's day-to-day operations. In addition, the Lieutenant serves as acting Chief whenever the Chief of Police is absent for vacation or other reasons.

Hilde was born in 1960. The City hired him as a patrol officer in 1983, a year after he earned an Associate's degree in law enforcement; Lillis also was hired as a patrol officer around this time. Lillis was later promoted to Lieutenant (in 1987), and Hilde was promoted to Sergeant in 1990.

In 1998, the City's then-Chief of Police, James Bozicevich, retired. Hilde and Lillis applied for the position, although Hilde told Lillis he didn't really want the job at that point in his career - he applied only to keep it " an internal process." [1] Lillis eventually was selected, creating a vacancy at the Lieutenant level; Hilde was then promoted to Lieutenant.

Over the next 14 years, Hilde performed well in this position. His day-to-day duties included, among other things, preparing shift schedules, representing the Chief of Police at professional seminars and conferences, conducting training for lower-ranking officers, and as noted above, assuming the role of acting Chief when Lillis was absent. According to Lillis, Hilde's position as the second-highest-ranking officer afforded him unique insight into the functioning of the police department and equipped him with skills that would be valuable were he ever to seek the Chief of Police job.

II. Lillis's resignation and the process for picking a new Chief

In early 2012, Lillis announced his intention to retire, effective April 30. At a January 9, 2012 meeting with Lillis, the

Page 1071

Police Commission [2] considered how the next Chief should be selected. The Commissioners first asked Lillis how many City officers were qualified for the position, and he responded that there were three - two Sergeants (Jesse Howe and Brandon Elias) and Hilde - but one was " not interested." [3] The Commission ultimately decided to ...


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