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Erik Burgess, Published August 26 2013

Dilworth to evaluate police chief in closed-door meeting

DILWORTH – City leaders will evaluate the police chief here in a closed-door meeting later this week.

The Dilworth City Council has scheduled a special meeting Thursday to review the performance of Police Chief Josh Ebert.

According to the city’s agenda released Monday morning, the council on Thursday will also consider taking action “related to the employment of Joshua Ebert” after the closed session is reopened to the public.

Earlier this year, the City Council held closed meetings to discuss unspecified allegations against Ebert after a group of Dilworth officers publicly declared “no confidence” in the chief. Following a month-long review, the council said the allegations were “unfounded.”

Minnesota law requires governmental boards like the City Council to meet in public, but an exemption to the law allows closing a portion of a meeting to evaluate the performance of an individual subject to the board’s authority.

Kristi Hastings, an attorney representing the city, said that Ebert is nearing the end of his probationary hiring period, which is why the review is taking place. Ebert started the job on March 1, 2012, and his probationary period ends Sept. 5, Hastings said.

“It (the review) is not related to a complaint,” Hastings said.

By law, Ebert could ask to keep the meeting open to the public, but City Administrator Ken Parke said Monday that Ebert has chosen to have it closed.

If the council decides to take any action against the chief, that action must be made publicly, Parke said.

When reached for comment Monday, Ebert said he has been expecting the evaluation and is looking forward to a review.

In December, a group of Dilworth officers publicly accused him of doing a poor job as chief. In a letter given to the City Council, officers raised issues with Ebert’s performance of administrative duties such as scheduling, planning and budgeting. They also said they had concerns with his 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 included six signatures – some of which were not legible.

Ebert has said that when he started as police chief last year, there were training issues within the department that he was trying to correct.

Ebert said he’s since met with all of his officers to discuss their concerns.

“There’s been a lot of progress made, and that’s a part of certainly what will be discussed (on Thursday), I’m sure,” Ebert said. “I’ve got a lot of positive things to talk about.”

The council decided in February that the unspecified allegations against Ebert were unfounded, but because disciplinary action wasn’t taken by the council, the details of the allegations remained private.

While that review discovered no misconduct on Ebert’s part, Mayor Chad Olson said at the time that the city did uncover “areas of improvement and other concerns” within the police department. Olson did not specify at the time what those concerns were.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518