Eric Makowski-Budrow's guilt in embezzling $660,000 from the Mille Lacs Band of Obijwe is what led to his termination as a paid on-call firefighter with the Brainerd Fire Department, it was learned Tuesday.
The Brainerd City Council on Monday terminated Makowski-Budrow without discussing the reason for his termination.
The Dispatch requested the reasons for his termination Tuesday and received from the city the notice of proposed discharge sent to Makowski-Budrow. Under state law these documents are considered part of the public record.
In the notice of proposed discharge sent to Makowski-Budrow in July - which as a honorably discharged veteran he had 60 days to contest but didn't - his guilty plea in December to a federal charge of embezzlement of a tribal organization violated several fire department and city personnel policies.
Makowski-Budrow could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
According to the plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court, between 2005 and 2007 Makowski-Budrow admitted he participated in a scheme iny which he embezzled, converted and misapplied, for his own use and the use of others, money, funds, credits, assets and other property belonging to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The theft totaled more than $660,000.
He admitted he rigged bids, participated in the creation of false documents and coordinated fraudulent and excessive payments to contractors as part of the scheme; orchestrated kickbacks from a vendor to enrich himself; and used a band account at Home Depot for himself.
According to the notice, signed by City Administrator Dan Vogt and Fire Chief Kevin Stunek, the fire department policies violated include the department's mission goal and statement; excercising common sense, courtesy and arrifmatively promoting the organization's values; dishonesty and untruthfulness; and observance of criminal and civil laws.
City personnel policies violated concerned employee dishonesty and theft.
"Maintaining the public trust and confidence are key elements of firefighting," the notice from Vogt and Stunek said.
"The public expects and demands that its public servants obey the law. Your criminal conduct harmed the credibility and reputation of all your fellow firefighters and the department itself. Your prolonged, repeated and extremely serious criminal activities demonstrated a complete disregard for the department and city policies demanding employees act lawfully, whether on or off duty. Violations of these important policies have and will continue to damage the Brainerd Fire Department and its employees in their mission to provide high quality fire service."
Makowski was hired as a paid on-call firefighter on Aug. 1, 2006. He also previously served on the city's Planning Commission and Housing and Redevelopment Authority but resigned from those positions after the city started investigating his federal crime.
Not resolved is a July settlement offer by Makowski-Budrow, who stated he has a legal claim against the city because council member Bob Olson released to the public information regarding Makowski-Budrow's guilty plea to embezzlement and that Olson has made defamatory statements regarding Makowski-Budrow.
Makowski-Budrow made a settlement offer to the city. He said that in exchange for a lump sum of $50,000, he would release the city from all legal claims and end his employment as a paid on-call firefighter.
Olson had the Makowski-Budrow issue placed on the council's Oct. 18 agenda.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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