Jerry Braam, the former Pequot Lakes Police chief who was fired Sept. 28 after spending six weeks on paid administrative leave, says he was never allowed to defend himself after Mayor Nancy Adams brought forth a complaint against him.
In an e-mailed statement, Braam wouldn't go into details regarding Adams' investigation other than to say it was for an alleged violation of city policy.
Braam said Adams' investigation was completed July 9 and sent to City Attorney Paul Sandelin. He said he was never informed of the investigation until being placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 16.
"I was never formally asked questions about the investigation, and to this day, I have (never) been given a chance to respond to any questioning from either her or the city council," Braam wrote. "I completely deny her allegations and was thoroughly looking forward to being able to speak about it to the council and to dispute her so-called 'facts' of the investigation."
The city council met in a closed session on Sept. 28 for the purpose to engage in preliminary consideration of allegations or charges of misconduct of a city employee. Braam attended the meeting, as did Sandelin and an attorney from the League of Minnesota Cities.
When the council came back into open session about a half hour after the closed session started, it voted 4-1 to terminate Braam, with council member Tom Ryan opposed. No reason has been given by the city for Braam's firing, and at the time Adams said because Braam was an at-will employee and not under contract, the city wasn't required to release information regarding the complaint against Braam or why the council terminated him.
In an e-mailed statement on Tuesday, Adams thanked Braam for his service to the city and wished him well in his career.
Adams also said though a difficult situation, she was confident the city followed proper procedures in firing Braam and she is confident the city council took the right direction when it decided to terminate Braam's employment.
"Like many other employers in the state, Pequot Lakes has at-will employees. In fact, most Minnesotans are at-will employees. That means the employee serves at the will of the employer. Because Mr. Braam did not have a contract with the city and because he was not a member of a union, he was an at-will employee. That means that he could be discharged for any reason or no reason," Adams said in her statement. "The city's decision to terminate Mr. Braam's employment was not disciplinary in nature. The city is simply taking a different direction in its police department than it has in the past."
The Dispatch has argued that there is no at-will exemption in Minnesota state statutes, and as a public employee who was placed on paid administrative leave because of a complaint and then fired, the nature of the complaint and the council's reasons for firing Braam should be made public.
Braam said he hoped to be able to defend himself at the closed meeting but the League of Minnesota Cities' attorney, Twin Cities-based Pamela VanderWiel, said because he was an at-will employee the city could terminate him without a reason.
"I want people to know that this was not a deal that I struck with the council and that I was not expecting this to (happen), and, in fact, in 23 years of being in law enforcement, I have never heard of such action," Braam said.
Braam said though the two haven't always agreed, he appreciated Ryan's efforts. On Sept. 27, Ryan said he voted against terminating Braam because he disagreed with the process.
Braam said he was most disappointed with council members Dave Sjoblad, Cathy Malecha and Craig Nagel for not insisting he be heard during the closed session but going with what they were told by Adams.
"I am sure that most of the people that read this article will be able to read between the lines," Braam said.
"I would think that when you vote to terminate an employee, you would want to know all the facts and hear from all parties involved before you would make such an (important) decision. For that I am very disappointed in Sjoblad, Malecha and (Nagel) for just 'going with the flow' and going with Mayor Adams."
As to his future, Braam said he doesn't know what his employment plans will be or if his termination has ended his career in law enforcement. He said he and his family love the Pequot Lakes area and would like to see their youngest son graduate from high school there. He does plan on staying active in volunteering for football, basketball and baseball and wished Pequot Lakes Police officers the best.
Adams said officer Kate Peterson has been serving as the city's police chief since August and will continue doing so in the interim.
"Our city is - and will remain - a safe community in which to live and work," Adams said. "I look forward to working with the council moving forward."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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