By Peter O'Dowd
Laramie, Wy – Laramie's police chief was unsuccessful in his effort to sue a private citizen for slander and libel.
An Albany County Circuit Court Wednesday dismissed the case against long-time city council critic Tim Hale.
Chief Bob Deutsch told the judge that his reputation was tarnished after Hale accused him of embezzling city money.
Deutsch acknowledged he violated city policy when he paid for a laptop computer with petty cash in 2007. But he says he did nothing criminal.
Deutsch reimbursed the city for the computer.
Hale mentioned the incident during a city council meeting in May, and then again in a letter sent to city employees in June that called for an investigation. He suggested some type of embezzlement might have occurred.
But Judge Randall Arp was unconvinced. He told Deutsch that public officials are subject public scrutiny. And that he failed to meet a high burden of proof that Hale made malicious comments knowing they were false. The judge said that criticism, however irritating to public officials, is part of democracy.
Hale did not go forward with a countersuit against Deutsch. The chief says he doesn't regret standing up for his reputation.
He says within the next year he will most likely leave the department.