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Hemmah case hinges on bid for appeal

A three-year legal battle between the city of Red Wing and a former employee could soon be over.

Or it might be ramping up again.

Former Red Wing Public Works deputy utilities Director Daniel Hemmah's feud with the city hinges on whether the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear his case.

"We're waiting to see if the Eighth Circuit Court accepts the appeal or dismisses it because it's untimely," said League of Minnesota Cities attorney Pat Beety, who represents Red Wing. The city contends Hemmah missed the deadline to file an appeal.

Hemmah's attorney Bill Mavity disagrees and is pushing on with a bid for an appeal. Mavity could not be reached for comment.

Beety said she hopes to hear from the appeals court by the end of the year.

If granted, an appeal would represent another chapter in the seesaw legal battle.

Hemmah was fired in 2006. His superiors alleged he undermined and lied to them. Hemmah denied any wrongdoing and sued the city over a number of claims, including that Red Wing denied him a name-clearing hearing.

Name-clearing hearings -- which give terminated public employees a chance to refute claims made by their employers -- are guaranteed by law.

A jury in June 2008 found the city had denied Hemmah a proper hearing and ordered Red Wing to pay $250,000 in damages.

After the trial, U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson slashed the amount to be paid to Hemmah to $50,000, agreeing with Red Wing's post-trial argument that the evidence didn't support the hefty damages.

In response to the judge's post-trial ruling, Hemmah pursued a second jury trial to re-argue damages, held in May 2009, and that jury absolved Red Wing of any damages.

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