President Norton, Council Members, and Mayor Wilson. Thank you for the opportunity to restore my professional reputation with this name clearing hearing.
The purpose of this hearing is to restore my professional reputation and good name, both of which were damaged by the Red Wing City Council following the Special Meeting held on February 19, 2021.
I requested to attend that closed session meeting regarding “a proposed agreement and release of all claims” as stated in the meeting notice, but was denied; therefore, I was not given an opportunity to address your false claims. During this hearing, I will address 1) Inconsistency from paid administrative leave to termination; 2) Comments made by Council Member Brown in a Star Tribune interview; and 3) Comments made by Council President Norton in the termination letter and interview to media outlets.
Prior to discussing the events of the February 19th City Council meeting, we must back up to the February 8th City Council meeting. I first learned from Administrator Kuhlmann at 3:00 PM that the Council wished to discuss my job performance. She advised me that I could request the meeting to be opened or closed. Administrator Kuhlmann stated that during the previous year, a city employee was in a similar situation, and by keeping the meeting closed, the Council was able to develop a personal improvement plan for the employee and move forward successfully.
I consulted with an attorney and we determined to leave the meeting closed.
After the City Council adjourned on February 8th I received a telephone call from the Council Administrator and the City Attorney at approximately 10:00 PM. I recorded the phone conversation. In preparation for tonight’s hearing I listen to the recording several times, during which I was told repeatedly throughout the call that I was being placed on paid administrative leave for non-disciplinary reasons, and the City wishes to go a different direction. I trusted what they told me.
The Red Wing City Council created a false and defamatory impression about me in connection with my termination on February 19th. I was told repeatedly by City Attorney Amy Mace, during the February 8th call, that the paid administrative leave was for non-disciplinary reasons, and that if I did not resign, “Kay was authorized to terminate my employment” again for non-disciplinary reasons as the City wished
to go a different direction. Trusting their words, I proceeded to move forward with my professional career.
The Red Wing City Council then contradicted their initial statement and on February 19th voted to terminate me for disciplinary reasons. They also released the termination letter to the media, prior to my receipt of the notice. The City did not redact my home address, but did redact the section of the letter which contained instructions for requesting a Veterans Preference hearing.
In short, the Council told the world, in a document dated February 19, 2021, that I was an untrustworthy person. That statement creates a false and defamatory impression of me, limiting my options for future career opportunities, including high-security clearance positions.
This letter also contained a totally different message than the initial “non-disciplinary, going a different direction” tone of February 8th.
It is my constitutional right to work and earn a living. The comments made by the Council damaged my professional standing and association in our community and the professional world.
The Council’s attempts to interfere with and micromanage the day-to-day operations of the police department caused additional damage to my professional reputation. In a June 2020, email to Administrator Kuhlmann, I stated that the City Council was inappropriately injecting themselves into police communications with the public.
As an example, a Council member took it upon herself to provide police policies to a group even though I had stated at the June 6th event that the policies would all be posted online at the Police Department website. As a result, citizens immediately began contacting council members instead of working with me, which hampered my ability to build positive relationships with members of this group. I believe respectful, open communication is the best way to solve community problems.
Members of the Council have implied that I purposefully left them out of community meetings between citizens and the police. This is false. In fact, I fully implemented a process to involve Council members as stipulated in the Public Meeting Policy which was passed by the council on July 13, 2020.
Coordination was demonstrated for the July 2nd community meeting, which emails show coordinating efforts as early as June 17th.
The simple fact is – the Council was always invited to neighborhood meetings, and once the policy was implemented, a process was in place to comply with the Public Meeting Policy. I did express my concern to Administrator Kuhlmann that in certain situation this policy delays my community engagement efforts and gives community members the impression that I am slow to respond or that I don’t care.
Now let me continue with two examples of Council interference with building positive public relations and further damage to my reputation
The first example took place in July 2020, I expressed my concerns to my supervisor regarding a July 18th social media post from a City Council member on Facebook. My concern was that several council members were possibly undermining my community policing efforts to work with all residents. Again, damaging my professional reputation within the community.
The second example occurred on September 4th when the Council President participated in an anti-police protest outside my residence, which occurred from approximately 9:00 PM to after Midnight. Later, when I asked the Council President concerning his presence at the protest, he stated he was there to keep the peace. What he failed to recognize or understand is that his presence condoned their actions and implied support for the message on their signs, again damaging my professional reputation.
Now let me turn to my interaction with the Council regarding the “Advisory Team.”
On September 23, 2020, Administrator Kuhlmann and three Council members met with me to discuss the selection process of the officers for the Advisory Team. I explained why some officers that the Council wanted were not available. I explained the Department’s selection process of the two officers that were selected.
After reviewing the video of June 22nd City Council meeting and the June 29th Workshop. The Council did not state that they would be involved in picking the officers. Instead, I received guidance, noting that police would be at the table (equals) and at all meetings. That did not happen.
Moreover, based on guidance and direction that I received from the Council, our strategic plan for 2021 would heavily reflect the 2015 Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the 2020 MN Attorney General’s and DPS Commissioners Report from the Police Deadly Encounter Working Group, both of which provided
direction on improving relations within communities where those relationships are strained. The Police Department and I were also strong supporters of the City’s effort and involvement regarding the Government Alliance for Racial Equity.
Now to the question of prompt response to Council concerns.
Your statement that I did not respond to citizens or to council members in a timely manner is simply false.
Every week I responded to citizens' questions in a weekly column entitled 'Ask the Chief' and did so for years. Also, my records reflect that not one phone call, email, or meeting request was unanswered or denied. I cannot control voicemails that are not set up or full of messages and in some instances, I talked to the individual in person. Just because they did not agree with my response does not indicate that I did not respond to them.
My phone and email records also reflect countless communications with Council members. In fact, my phone logs show that since March of 2020 to February 2021 I spent approximately 4 hours on the phone with Council Member Brown and 6.4 hours on the phone with Council Member Norton.
To be clear, my mandate was to communicate with the Council through my
supervisor. Accordingly, I kept my supervisor current on police operations. If she
chose not to update council, I supposed she had good reason.
Now to the issue of my performance evaluation.
The 2020 DRAFT evaluation was initially covered with me by Administrator Kuhlmann in early January. The Council stated that they wanted input on all “officers of the council” evaluations and the Chief of Police was the first evaluation to be completed with this new input procedure from Council.
Council President Norton justified my termination based on comments in this DRAFT evaluation.
During my discussion with Administrator Kuhlmann, she stated that for 2020 she rated me an overall 4 out of possible 5. Looking at the draft report that City Hall released (which the release is questionable, as it is a personnel document, and never finalized let me repeat never finalized) Administrator Kuhlmann had adjusted her rating to an average 3.7 out of possible 5 and the six City Council Members that submitted their comments to Administrator Kuhlmann had an average rating of 3.3 out of 5, just above average overall performance.
2019 and prior year evaluations complimented me as an employee and made no reference to support Council Member Brown’s statement to the media that “this has been an issue for five years”.
Throughout the historically stressful year of 2020, I stayed true to the highest standards of professional conduct in service to ALL members of our community.
That brings me to the issue of trust.
I resent and deny your false allegations of untrustworthiness.
To be clear, I was entrusted with the lives of 40 US soldiers' and 200 Iraqi soldiers during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I brought every US soldier home. I lead a Department that was authorized for 35 employees, and was entrusted with a budget of $5.1 million dollars, and every penny is accounted for. I am an honest and trustworthy person.
I am a Christian, and I believe everyone is created in God’s image as stated in Genesis 1:27. I treat everyone with kindness and respect and believe that laws and constitutional rights equally apply to ALL members of our community.
On June 6th I stood in central park to demonstrate unity among our police and community members and addressed questions for over 30 minutes. Council Member Brown even stated in a social media post that “a moment blew my mind…when Chief of Police Roger Pohlman read a statement from (a local activist)”.
Also, I have emails that reflect my belief in the potential value and efforts of working with the Advisory Team in reviewing Department Policy and improving our relationships, which was the original direction provided by Council in June 2020. Through my implicit bias and equity training, I fully understand how important it is for all members of the community to be treated equally and fairly, and that is exactly what I attempted to do. I welcomed and support working on police reform. The Law Enforcement Profession can and needs to do better.
To close, the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The City of Red Wing failed to give me a meaningful opportunity to address the Council's concerns. I was denied due process; therefore, the name clearing hearing is the best way to address your defamatory statements publicly.
I have much more data but do not wish to cause “data fatigue” this evening.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the inconsistency with my release of employment, and comments made against me by council members. Your public statements damaged my professional record which was stellar.
I also want to thank the residents of Red Wing for the opportunity to serve them. I kept my oath of office and you were always my top priority. It was my honor.
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