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BE says no to chief choices

By Staff | Nov 27, 2011

Kathy Bailey

Back to square one.

That is where the Blue Earth City Council appears to be, after hearing a recommendation from a police chief hiring panel.

The panel, composed of City Administrator Kathy Bailey and several law enforcement officials from the area, recommended that none of the four candidates they interviewed last week be hired by the city.

“After the written test scores were tabulated, the interviews conducted and some of the references checked, it is the recommendation of the panel that the city of Blue Earth does not hire any of the current candidates for police chief,” Bailey told the council. “Our further recommendation is that the city continue to work with the sheriff for interim administrative duties.”

While the council took no formal vote on the recommendation, they appeared to accept it and instructed Bailey to invite the sheriff to the next council meeting for discussion on the matter.

One topic of future conversation was suggested to consider appointing a police sergeant from the current staff to handle some of the day-to-day scheduling.

No announcement of any plans for further searching for a police chief were made at the meeting last Monday.

Bailey’s recommendation came at the end of a long work session and meeting and was given as part of her administrator’s report.

After the meeting Bailey told the Register that there had been 14 applications for the position.

“We had planned to interview five of them at first,” Bailey says. “But one of them, from Georgia, declined to beinterviewed.”

She says the other four candidates were all from the Southern Minnesota area and that none of them are currently employed by any departments.

“None of them had any experience as a police chief,” Bailey said after the meeting. “But they were willing to take a position as a chief in Blue Earth.”

Bailey says the issues surrounding the police chief position and whether it would be a permanent job had an influence on who applied, the panel felt.

“In this economy nobody is going to give up a job, move and take a new one that may not last more than a year,” she says, referring to the fact that the council is still considering other options for local law enforcement, including contracting with the sheriff’s department or the city of Winnebago.

The City Council had matters relating to the police department come up several times during the meeting.

• The council heard a report from Bailey as to the number of police calls on Friday and Saturday nights reported last year.

Councilman John Gartzke says he feels the high number indicates a need for having two officers on duty those nights.

Previously, the police budget had been trimmed, cutting the second officer on duty on weekend nights. Cost savings were put at $14,000.

“I want that second officer back in the budget,” Gartzke says. “It is a matter of safety for the officers and for the public.”

The council will vote on the final budget in December.

• City Attorney David Frundt gave a report on the history of the city’s Police Commission.

Frundt had been asked to research this matter by Councilman John Huisman, who says he would like to have the council reinstate the commission.

“I sense that we (the council) need to have more of a hands on with the police department,” Huisman says. “Whether it is with a police commission or something else.”

Frundt says the commission was abolished after 1998 because of conflicts with how the commission would function after a police union was put in place.

Bailey added that most cities do not have police commissions and those that do have one, the commissions have very little authority.