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David Schofield v. City of St. Paul

September 3, 2010

DAVID SCHOFIELD, APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF ST. PAUL,
APPELLEE.



Supreme Court No. S-13461 Superior Court No. 3AN-06-12330 CI Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Craig F. Stowers, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carpeneti, Chief Justice.

Notice: This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC REPORTER. Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, e-mail corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us.

OPINION

Before: Carpeneti, Chief Justice, Fabe, Winfree, and Christen, Justices. [Stowers, Justice, not participating.]

I. INTRODUCTION

A police officer's allegedly improper marriage to a woman in the Philippines aroused the ire of the municipal police chief. Amidst the ensuing controversy, the officer resigned, purportedly to protect his police certification. He then brought suit claiming constructive discharge. However, the jury found that the officer was not constructively discharged. The officer appeals, arguing that the superior court erred in its wording of a jury instruction, in several evidentiary rulings, and in awarding attorney's fees. Because we conclude that one of the evidentiary rulings was erroneous, we remand the case to the superior court, and do not reach the remaining issues.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

David Schofield was a police officer in St. Paul, Alaska, from October 1998 until his resignation in late October 2004. He had moved to St. Paul in 1996, although his then-wife remained in Idaho. In December 2003 Schofield was introduced via the internet to Eula Figuero a woman living in the Philippines. Schofield traveled to the Philippines in July 2004 and proposed to Figuero; a wedding was scheduled for October 8, 2004.

Schofield sent divorce papers to his wife in Idaho, but the divorce was not finalized when Schofield traveled to the Philippines for his wedding. Therefore, Schofield claims he and Figuero completed a "non-legal" wedding ceremony, and were not "actually" married. But, according to the City of St. Paul, Schofield told city officials he was married to Figuero. Schofield's father, who said he attended the ceremony, also said that Schofield had married.

Within weeks of the wedding, St. Paul Chief of Police Gary Putman became aware of the apparent double marriage, which he believed constituted the crime of "Unlawful Marrying" under AS 11.51.140. At this time, Chief Putman was also looking into Schofield's absence from work, because Schofield was due back by October 13 but had not been heard from as of October 18.

Upon Schofield's arrival back in Alaska, two important meetings between Putman and Schofield ensued. First, upon Schofield's return on Friday, October 22 from the Philippines, he was met at the airport by a police officer and taken immediately to meet with Putman. Putman taped his meeting with Schofield, with Schofield's consent. At this meeting, Putman confronted Schofield about his allegedly criminal activity, and told Schofield that the issue could cost Schofield his police certification. Putman suspended Schofield and scheduled a follow-up meeting for Monday afternoon, October 25.

Schofield testified that over the weekend St. Paul residents told him he had been terminated. Schofield also testified that on Monday morning he had a conversation with Mike Meehan, acting director of the Alaska Police Standards Council. From that conversation Schofield was left with the impression that he would lose his police certification if he were fired, but not if he resigned. Meehan acknowledged that he had a conversation with Schofield, but implied that he would not have told Schofield this.*fn1

The second meeting between Schofield and Putman was on Monday afternoon; it too was recorded. Even before entering the meeting, Schofield was aware that his office had been packed up and cleaned out. At the meeting, Schofield asked what alternatives he had to resigning, and in response Putman stated that the district attorney would look into whether to prosecute Schofield and the Alaska Police Standards Council would question Schofield's police certification. Putman then told Schofield that he could "expect probably some fairly aggressive questioning" and could "pretty much figure out the ...


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