Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 29, 1999

LP and Galles await judge's decision

By Luis Puga

After appearing in district court Tuesday in Glencoe, the City of Lester Prairie and former Lester Prairie police officer Andrew Galles will await the judge's decision on their case.

The subject of the litigation, which has been in court twice before, is an argument over vacation pay, legal penalties, and in what standing Galles left the city's employment this past spring.

Galles and the city initially appeared in conciliation court in July. In that case, Judge Richard Perkins offset vacation pay owed to Galles with exit fees due from Galles because he resigned prior to the end of a two-year probationary period.

According to that decision, Galles owed the city $1,552.25. However, the city owed Galles $367 for medical and psychological exams it should not have charged him for, plus $203.35 for back vacation pay, it was ruled.

Galles then brought a separate claim to conciliation court against the city in October in front of a different judge, William Machlain. In this case, Galles was asking for the city to pay him a penalty for withholding the aforementioned vacation pay.

In this case, Machlain sided with Galles, citing a Minnesota statute that awards employees a penalty for every day the employer withholds pay.

The judge awarded Galles $1,500, which included the vacation pay plus penalties and a $30 filing fee.

The city opted to appeal that decision to the first district court, a higher court than conciliation court that would keep the decision on record.

Appearing before Judge Michael Young, Galles argued that he deserved the penalty entitled to him under state law.

The city, represented by Jody Winter of Gavin, Olson, and Savre, argued that the city felt the matter was settled in the first decision handed down by Perkins.

Young opted to read over the files presented to him, but did comment to Galles that the second claim in Machlain's court should have never been heard. He said, "You can't get a second bite of the same apple."

He elaborated that since Galles did not appeal the original claim to a higher court, Machlain did not have the authority to make the judgement he did.

The city had no comment on the proceeding on Tuesday.

Galles, in an e-mail to the Journal, said he considered Young's comments "rude and offensive."

"We were there to discuss a case that I feel strongly on, and for some reason, the judge acted hostile to my cause. But, after thinking about it, I was there simply because the city still believed that it had done nothing wrong by denying to pay my wages to me," Galles wrote.

He again asserted his point that the wages and the penalty are owed to him under Minnesota state statute.

He added, "If the ruling on this case were to be reversed by Judge Young, I think it will be a great injustice on behalf of not just me, but all employees, due to the fact it would become case law unless I were to appeal the ruling."

Galles noted that he would consider appealing the ruling if it does not go in his favor.

He also maintains that the two cases which Young termed to be "two bites out of the same apple" were separate cases.

He ended his comments by saying, "I will always believe that I was wronged, as I was, and they (the city of Lester Prairie) will always believe they were wronged. There is clearly no winner."

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