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Erik Burgess, Published January 04 2013

Dilworth to hold closed meeting regarding police chief

DILWORTH – The City Council here will hold a closed meeting Tuesday to discuss unspecified allegations against Dilworth Police Chief Josh Ebert.

According to a news release from the city, the council will meet at 4:30 p.m. for “preliminary consideration of allegations” against a city employee.

City Administrator Ken Parke confirmed Friday the allegations involve Ebert.

“It’s in relation to the police chief, that’s all I can really tell you,” Parke said.

Parke said he could not comment on specifics of the allegations against Ebert, but he said depending on what transpires in the meeting, some information may become public immediately following it.

Ebert has faced public scrutiny from his officers over the past month. During a Dec. 10 City Council meeting, some officers attempted to present a letter to the mayor outlining broad but unspecified concerns with the chief.

When reached for comment on Friday, Ebert said he was aware the meeting was taking place, but he did not know what would be discussed. He said meetings of this sort could cover any issue from salary to disciplinary actions.

He said no disciplinary charges have been filed against him since the letter of complaint was made public.

“To this day, that still holds true,” he said. “So, I think we’re all gonna be waiting to see what’s going on behind closed doors.”

In the news release, the city cited an exemption to the state law that typically bars a public board like the City Council from meeting behind closed doors – the requirement that public bodies “must close meetings for preliminary considerations of allegations or charges against an individual subject to its authority.”

The exemption states that if officials conclude that discipline may be warranted as a result of those charges, further meetings regarding the charges must be open. The subject of the allegations can also require the meeting to be held in the open.

In the letter of complaint given to the City Council last month, officers raised issues with Ebert’s performance of administrative duties such as scheduling, planning and budgeting. They also said they had concerns with the chief’s ethics, accountability and adaptability.

The letter provided no examples of incidents with which they took issue. Dilworth employs six full-time police officers, and the letter contained six signatures – some of which were not legible.

Ebert said on Friday that he has met individually with his officers, and that they have not lodged any further formal complaints against him. He called the complaints “vague.”

“Quite frankly, they weren’t real specific probably because they didn’t have a whole lot of specifics to get into,” he said.

Ebert said he is not angry with his staff, and he is looking forward to hashing out the issues with his department.

“I want to start getting to the root of those issues,” he said. “We need to unify and come back to the table and discuss these, get them out there and work through them and then move on.”

Ebert started here March 1. Before moving to Dilworth, he was police chief for eight years in Pine River, a town of about 950 people roughly 30 miles north of Brainerd.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518