Erik Burgess, Published January 31 2013
Dilworth says recent complaint against police chief unfounded
Josh Ebert was facing unspecified allegations, which caused the City Council on Jan. 8 to hire Pemberton Law Firm, out of Fergus Falls, to investigate the chief.
Following a two-hour special closed meeting on Thursday, Mayor Chad Olson said their investigator was unable to authenticate the allegations.
“We conducted a very thorough and impartial investigation,” Olson said in a prepared statement. “Through this investigation, it was determined that no misconduct was substantiated.”
Minnesota law requires governmental 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 be-hind closed doors.
The law further states that if the City Council had decided to take disciplinary action against Ebert, further meetings relating to the issue would’ve been required to be open.
But because the council decided no disciplinary action was necessary, the details of the allegations lodged against Ebert are not public, said Kristi Hastings, an attorney at Pemberton who was working with the City Council on the matter.
In a written statement issued Thursday, Ebert said more than 1,000 pages of interviews regarding his job performance were compiled during the investigation.
“I appreciate the conclusions reached by the investigator,” Ebert said. “I am proud of my accomplishments as chief of police.”
The mayor did say Thursday that their investigation of Ebert turned up “some areas of improvement” needed within the city’s police department. Olson would not comment further on what those areas of improvement are.
“The city of Dilworth takes seriously these areas for improvement and other concerns raised with the working environment in the police department and will be taking affirmative action to ensure the improvement,” he said.
Ebert has said that when he became chief, he noticed officers did not meet training standards set forth by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, and he was working to correct that.
Public criticism of Ebert here first arose in a Dec. 10 council meeting, when local officers attempted to present a letter to the council 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 and accountability. The letter provided no examples of incidents with which they took issue.
Ebert has since said that he is working with his officers individually to address their concerns.
“Through this process, the city of Dilworth can rest assured that the police work done within our city will be professionally handled on a day-to-day basis,” Olson said Thursday.
Before coming to Dilworth, Ebert served 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
Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send a letter to the editor.