What was presented on the Isanti city council agenda as “approving employee demotion” took a different turn as the council approved first rescinding former police chief Gene Hill’s demotion, only to then formally terminate his employment with the department.
“I’m sure we’re all aware as to who this is in regards to” said mayor Jeff Johnson, “and, upon further review given the finding in the investigation, I personally do not believe that the position of police officer is an appropriate position for this individual. We do not have any positions within the police department that would be appropriate. The findings in this investigation include the status Brady/Giglio and the improper release of evidence contrary to the BCA’s (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) direction.”
While not going into specifics of Hill’s investigation, Johnson’s reference to Brady/Giglio in general refers to the withholding or falsifying of information in an investigation or trial.
Johnson made both motions, which passed 4-1. Council member Ross Lorinser was the sole no vote for both motions.
After the vote, Lorinser stated he had a question regarding the actions taking place, noting he received a phone call before the meeting from city administrator Josi Wood, who said the city would be opening itself up for a lawsuit if the council acted on anything other than a demotion.
Johnson interrupted Lorinser, stating everyone was aware of that possibility, but the topic was not open for discussion.
Lorinser persisted, asking if Wood could at least speak to her concerns, and Johnson again said there would be no discussion.
“We have discussed this at length,” he said.
Lorinser again asked for discussion following the motion to terminate Hill with 30 days notice, and asked city attorney Clark Joslin for direction.
Joslin noted the presiding officer determines when to close discussion unless the council wishes to take a vote.
“We’re treating two employees unfairly and we are opening ourselves up for a lawsuit,” Lorinser said. To which Johnson replied, “We’re opening ourselves up for lawsuits no matter which direction we go. So, you keep going, and I’ll find you out of order. Are we done now, sir? If nobody wants to continue talks on that, we’re going to move forward.”