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Nisswa police chief says he's suspended

Nisswa Police Chief Craig Taylor has said that he was the subject of a closed meeting conducted by the Nisswa City Council Wednesday, Aug. 14, and said by phone that he believed he would be fired when the meeting continued at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, Aug. 21. About 45 members of the public attended that morning, most of them to show support for Taylor.

But at the Aug. 21 meeting, which was perhaps only two minutes long and conducted at Nisswa City Attorney Clyde Ahlquist’s law office in Pequot Lakes, Ahlquist informed the council that the city has received an order from the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) which bars the city from making any staffing changes.

“The city has received a maintenance of status quo order … which basically precludes the city from doing anything in regards with labor relations until the vote for whether to unionize has taken effect. I submit that no action can be taken,” Ahlquist said.

After Ahlquist told the council of the order, the council immediately adjourned without further discussion amid angry comments from Taylor’s supporters.

Bureau of Mediation Services Mediator Mike Stockstead said by phone that a petition for supervisory and confidential employees with the city of Nisswa to unionize was received Monday, Aug. 19, which prompted the maintenance of status quo order. Stockstead said that group of employees could include department heads and the police chief.

When asked if petitions are ever filed by employees in order to receive a status quo order, due to fear that they might be fired, Stockstead said, “Absolutely.” He went on to say, though, “I don’t know that that’s the case, nor would I suppose it to be.”

Taylor said by phone Tuesday that he was suspended on Thursday, Aug. 15, and offered a one-year, pay and benefits package in exchange for his resignation. The offer also included stipulations that he not disclose the details of the offer or disparage the council or mayor in any way, and that he could say he resigned for “personal reasons.” Taylor rejected the offer.

“I couldn’t live with the shame of collecting money, taxpayer money, to do nothing, and have people wonder, what did he do? Did he quit, did he resign, did he get fired, what dirt do they have on him?” Taylor said.

Taylor claims that there are no allegations against him, that he has not had any sustained complaints and has never had disciplinary action taken against him. He also said that he was told by Nisswa Mayor Brian Lehman that there are no current allegations or charges against him.

He believes the council wishes to fire him for speaking out at the July 17 city council meeting, where the council considered the hiring of a city administrator.

After the meeting Wednesday morning (Aug. 21), Lehman told Taylor he is the police chief. Taylor requested that the council formally remove his suspension at the council meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21 at Nisswa City Hall.

Nisswa Mayor Brian Lehman could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning after the meeting.

Watch for updates on the Wednesday evening meeting.