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Erik Burgess, Published January 08 2013

Dilworth hires law firm to investigate its police chief

DILWORTH – The City Council here voted unanimously Tuesday to hire a Fergus Falls law firm to investigate allegations against the city’s police chief.

Following a special, closed meeting Tuesday afternoon, the council voted 5-0 to hire Pemberton Law Firm to look into allegations against Josh Ebert, who has faced public scrutiny from his officers in the last month.

Kristi Hastings, an attorney at Pemberton, was at the meeting and said that state law prevents the city from publicly disclosing the specifics of the complaint about Ebert until any possible discipline is final.

“We can’t get into talking about what the nature of the allegations are until the investigation is complete and some decisions are being made by the council,” Hastings said.

Minnesota law requires government boards like the City Council to meet in public, but an exemption to the law allows any meeting regarding “preliminary considerations of allegations or charges against an individual subject to (a public body’s) authority” to be held behind closed doors.

Public criticism of Ebert here first arose in a Dec. 10 council meeting, when local police officers attempted to present a letter to the mayor, declaring “no confidence” in the chief, who started the job in March.

In the letter, 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.

Ebert told The Forum on Friday that he was aware a closed meeting would be taking place, but he did not know what the allegations were concerning.

He said he is working with his officers to resolve their concerns, which he called “vague,” and said they have not lodged any more formal complaints.

“We’re going to work through this. Then we’re going to move on,” Ebert said Friday.

Before coming to Dilworth, Ebert served for eight years as the police chief of Pine River, a small town of less than a thousand people north of Brainerd.

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