The next move for the city is to find a new police chief.
Nearly a month and a half after Chief Keith Schroeder and Capt. Jon Barnett of the Devils Lake Police Department were suspended by the Devils Lake City Commission, the city announced separation agreements for both officers.
Barnett will remain on paid leave until June 30 of this year, after which his employment with the city will be terminated. He’s estimated to make a little more than $26,000 while suspended.
The city has also agreed to draft a letter thanking Barnett for his 30-plus years of service at the department. The wording of that letter was not revealed during Monday’s meeting.
Barnett was issued letters of reprimand and suspended several times over his career for issues such as sleeping on the job and problems with authority. It is believed that his behavior while on the force sparked the report that led to the suspensions of both officers.
Schroeder will be officially employed by the city until July 31. He’ll collect nearly $50,000 while on suspension. Schroeder’s lax approach to Barnett’s issues, as well as a perceived lack of leadership with upper management at DLPD, expressed by officers in a report submitted by human resources consultant Tanya Wieler, led to Schroeder’s termination.
Police Commissioner Craig Stromme said before the meeting that he didn’t know if he had completed Schroeder’s evaluations for the years 2014 and 2015, both of which are missing from his personnel file. He also indicated that he hadn’t been given reasonable opportunity to comment on previous stories about the status of Schroeder’s evaluations, though an email to an address listed at the city’s website, along with phone calls to the number listed on the city’s website, were not returned.
The city’s attorney, Tom Traynor, apologized for his decision to recommend making the decision regarding the suspensions of both officers last April 3 in closed session.
That led to a discussion about utilizing a second attorney to review decisions about sessions that are closed to the public before engaging in them.
Mayor Richard Johnson said that “a second set of eyes” might be beneficial in order to avoid violating the open meetings law, which the city did in March 2014 and last month.
"We've had two hiccups, maybe we can avoid a third,” Johnson said.
He also commended Traynor for the work he’s done for the city over the years.
The latest “hiccup” means that the city has been directed to release a recording of the closed meeting during which Schroeder and Barnett were suspended to several media outlets, including the Journal. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem instructed the city in his ruling last Friday that the city would be given seven days to produce the recording.
The contents of that recording will be revealed when it is released.
The next move for the city is to find a new police chief. That search is in its infancy, as the city has been occupied with hammering out settlement agreements with both officers, along with its normal duties.
The police department got some good news Monday, as officer Brad Dalzell is returning to the force after a three month absence. Chief Jim Frank indicated during Monday’s meeting that Dalzell’s return may be directly related to the change in leadership at the department.
Other business at Monday’s meeting included the announcement of this year’s Fill the Boot campaign, undertaken by the Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department annually in order to raise money for muscular dystrophy treatment and research.
This year’s Fill the Boot, coming June 2, will feature firefighters at Walmart, 6th St. and 4th Ave. by Leevers North, and City Plaza, as well as their main spot at the annual Devils Run parade.