October 25, 2006
Debate Over Terminating Trooper Who Belonged to a Hate Group
From siouxcityjournal.com/talkleft.com: A fired state trooper's link to a white supremacist group has placed Nebraska in the middle of a debate over individual rights and ensuring police fairness.
An arbitrator ruled in August that state trooper Robert Henderson should get his job back, but officials at the State Patrol and capitol promise to fight, setting the stage for a courtroom battle this month in Lincoln. Both sides filed briefs in the court case on Friday.
A secret State Patrol investigation found that Henderson had joined the Knights Party, which has ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Henderson acknowledged his membership to investigators and admitted posting messages on the group's members-only Web site. He later resigned from the group and apologized to the State Patrol's commander before termination.
The state should prevail, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project, which has been tracking hate groups since 1981. "The law is clear on this," Potok said. "He can be fired for this."
Yet arbitrator Paul J. Caffera cited several court rulings that say public employees and law enforcement officers don't have to give up their Constitutional rights when they accept the job. He also faulted the State Patrol's internal investigation and said the agency didn't follow its contract.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
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Court has more questions about fired trooper
By: Martha Stoddard , Midlands News Service
LINCOLN -- The Nebraska Supreme Court has ordered a second round of oral arguments in the case of a Nebraska State Patrol trooper who was fired for joining a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.
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In its order, the court told attorneys in the case of Robert E. Henderson to submit additional legal briefs by Aug. 1 and to be ready for a new hearing in September.
The court said the attorneys should address four questions in their arguments: collective bargaining agreements, constitutional rights, binding arbitration and legal precedent.
Henderson's attorney, Vincent Valentino, said the court's order is not routine but is not unprecedented. He said the four questions give little indication of the court's leanings.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office said only that state lawyers would provide the information the court requested.
The case began when the State Patrol fired Henderson, of Omaha, for joining the Knights Party, which describes itself as the oldest, largest and most-active Klan organization in the United States.
An internal investigation confirmed that Henderson had joined the party and posted messages to an online discussion group for party members. He said he joined as a way to vent his frustrations over his wife leaving him for a Hispanic man.
Henderson appealed his firing to an independent arbitrator in 2006, as allowed by the collective bargaining agreement covering state troopers.
The arbitrator ruled in his favor, saying that Henderson's firing violated his First Amendment and due process rights.
Attorney General Jon Bruning appealed the arbitrator's ruling, arguing that Nebraska's public policy against racism should bar Henderson from being reinstated.
Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront upheld Henderson's firing.
The case was heard March 4 by the State Supreme Court. At that hearing, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Stine said private citizens are free to think what they want and free to join racist groups. But he said the state has the right to set terms of employment for state troopers.
Posted by: nemo | Jun 12, 2008 8:39:43 AM