Search for police chief underway, city open to taping meetings

Chuck Wickenhofer

The search for a new police chief after the firing of the previous chief for performance-related issues is heating up, as advertising for the position is planned to begin on June 21 and continue until July 31.

The commission discussed the particulars of the advertising Monday, and acting chief Jim Frank agreed to review the ad before its release.

Mayor Richard Johnson seemed eager to get the search for a qualified candidate underway.

“We want somebody fully engaged, fully trained and ready to go,” Johnson said.

The commission has dealt with a great deal of scrutiny since the April 3 firing of both Chief Keith Schroeder and second-in-command Capt. Jon Barnett. A lack of oversight, exemplified by missing performance evaluations of the chief for two years and an apparent breakdown in communication led to a department that suffered from low morale and officers aggressively pursuing jobs at other departments due to the failures of leadership.

No one has taken much blame for the circumstances at the department during Schroeder’s tenure, and the city appears ready to move on from the fiasco.

Barnett will be paid through the end of June, while Schroeder will be paid through the end of July per separation agreements with the city. The city has also agreed to issue a letter of appreciation to Barnett due to his years of service to the city.

Barnett was reprimanded for issues with authority, an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker, and was admonished more than once during his 30-plus years of service for sleeping on the job.

No letter of appreciation was part of Schroeder’s separation package.

Commission appears open to taping meetings

The commission also responded to a citizen’s request to begin recording meetings, which would be uploaded to YouTube and the city’s website. The Ramsey County Commission has been recording their meetings for years, and several members of the City Commission seemed open to the idea.

“I’m all for it,” Commissioner Ben Sander said.

The effort to increase transparency at the commission comes after an illegally closed meeting held in April during which the commission agreed to suspend the top ranked police officers at DLPD. After Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem ruled that the commission met illegally to suspend the officers, a tape of the meeting was released to media outlets and the public.

The city agreed to discuss logistics and evaluate the cost of the production, though no time frame was announced for the move.

An interested citizen mentioned closed captioning of the meetings, but Commissioner Dale Robbins pointed out that the logistics of that idea may be difficult because an individual would be tasked to type out the dialogue in real time. However, the citizen’s suggestion that meetings perhaps be broadcast on the local public access channel was received with greater enthusiasm.