AURORA | A lawsuit from a longtime police officer against the City of Aurora and former police chief Dan Oates appears destined for a trial in August after the two sides couldn’t hammer out a settlement last week.
But whether the trial will go forward as scheduled in August is unclear because lawyers for the city are asking for more time.
The case of former Aurora police officer Kenneth Murphy — who claims he was wrongly demoted by then-Chief Oates and not given due consideration for the chief job when Oates resigned — is currently set to begin Aug. 15. It is expected to last five days.
City attorneys say that Murphy’s claims — that the city wrongly decided to not pursue his application for the chief position while considering other internal candidates he believed were less qualified — require more time.
Murphy says Oates retaliated against him after he testified in support of an officer who was disciplined for missing work. Murphy’s testimony was at odds with Oates and Murphy says Oates ordered him to retract his comments and demoted him when he refused.
Murphy claims he dreamed of being Aurora police chief throughout his life and that he “was the only qualified internal candidate.” Murphy also claims that three other candidates named finalists for the job — Rob McGregor, Fran Gomez and Roy Minter — did not meet the mandated criteria in the job posting.
The claim specifically targets Aurora City Manager George “Skip” Noe for his role in the chief selection process and, as Murphy alleges, being “intimately involved” in Murphy’s demotion from division chief, which Murphy claims was a retaliatory measure.
The two sides had a hearing this week aimed at reaching a settlement but couldn’t agree, according to court documents. Lawyers for the city said last week they were hopeful they could reach an agreement but Murphy’s lawyers weren’t confident a deal would be reached.
Murphy’s lawyers oppose any delay in the trial, court documents say.
Lawyers for the city also say the trial date was set without conferring with counsel and key witnesses, particularly Oates, who they claim “has a very demanding and tight schedule” as chief of police in Miami Beach, Fla.
Further complicating matters is the recent quadruple bypass surgery of Regan Williams, the senior vice president of the firm hired by the city to conduct the search for Oates’ replacement. Williams’ testimony was sought to explain why other applications were given preference over Murphy’s for the chief position.
The city eventually appointed former Seattle assistant police chief Nicholas Metz to replace Oates.
Williams, who underwent surgery June 8, has been ordered by doctors to not work for 90 days, precluding any travel to Colorado to testify. Williams was also involved in two previous searches for a new Aurora police chief: The search that resulted in Oates joining APD in 2005, and the search that ended with Ricky Bennett winning the chief job in 2002.
Murphy was one of nine finalists when Aurora searched for a new police chief in 2005 after Bennett’s resignation, which was prompted by the botched handling of convicted serial rapist Brent J. Brents.
Murphy’s lawyer has filed a response to the city’s request for the delay, arguing that the defense team failed “to articulate any unavoidable conflict that would prevent” Oates from appearing at the trial beginning in August.
The response also argues that Williams’ deposition is no longer necessary, as Murphy’s lawyers do not plan to call him as a witness and that the defense could not claim him as a necessary witness in the case.
A hearing on the motion to continue the trial was set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 6.