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Hemmah, city back in court

MINNEAPOLIS - A fired city of Red Wing employee is back in federal court, hoping a jury will rule in his favor a second time.

Dan Hemmah filed a lawsuit against the city - and three of its top officials - in 2006 for allegedly denying him a name-clearing hearing to refute allegations the city made regarding reasons for his termination.

After several days of testimony last year, a jury ruled in Hemmah's favor and awarded him $250,000 in damages. U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen later reduced Hemmah's payout to $50,000, saying the trial evidence did not warrant such a large award.

Unsatisfied with the judge's decision, Hemmah demanded a new trial, which began Tuesday.

"The truth is worth more than money," a tearful Hemmah said when he took the stand.

Hemmah, a former Red Wing Public Works deputy utilities director, was fired in 2006 after 28 years of employment.

His lawsuit claims top city officials denied him a name-clearing hearing, which is guaranteed to public employees if stigmatizing claims made by their former employers are made public.

"I wanted the truth to be told and my name to be cleared," Hemmah said Tuesday.

City officials say they did eventually offer Hemmah a name-clearing hearing in August 2006, four months after he was fired.

Hemmah denied the city's offer.

He said Tuesday the city's deal would have meant a five-minute presentation before Red Wing City Council. Hemmah said that would not provide sufficient time to present his case and refute the city's "completely false" allegations against him.

Testimony is expected to wrap up today.

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