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Pequot Lakes: Council dismisses another employee

Screenshot of Pequot Lakes Clerk's Office from Google maps.

The city of Pequot Lakes fired two city employees in February, with the latest action taken Monday, Feb. 29.

After meeting in closed session for less than a half hour, the council reopened the meeting and dismissed Joni O'Donnell, administrative assistant in the administrator's office, effective Monday for reasons stated in a Feb. 25 letter from city administrator Nancy Malecha to O'Donnell.

The Echo Journal submitted a request for those reasons, but hadn't received them as of Tuesday, March 1.

The city hired O'Donnell in November 2015 and she was still on a six-month probationary status.

On Feb. 2, the council fired Jeanyne Alderson, office manager with the police department. The Echo Journal requested the reasons for the dismissal, and obtained that information recently.

According to documents, Alderson was reprimanded in August for sending and receiving personal and private business emails during city paid hours and while using a city email address. Private business emails are prohibited on city computers and networks.

The city later received and investigated a complaint that Alderson secretly recorded conversations in the workplace, according to documents. An investigation concluded that in October 2015, Alderson verbally told another city employee something to the effect that she recorded a conversation(s) with police chief Eric Klang and council member Scott Pederson so that Alderson would have a record of what was said. She didn't tell Klang or Pederson that she had recorded any conversation with either of them.

She also indicated that she wore the recording device all the time when at work for the city, documents said, and she didn't turn over any recordings when asked.

The Echo Journal also recently submitted a request to the city for the reasons former police officer Josh Gartner was fired in September 2014.

Documents indicate that in June 2014, Gartner was placed on administrative leave with pay and benefits because of a complaint that Gartner stayed at Breezy Point Resort and failed to pay an invoice for a room. Invoices were addressed to the Pequot Lakes Police Department address, and Gartner failed to change the address or pay the invoice after being requested to do so, documents said.

A complaint later in June 2014 alleged that an open container of alcohol and two clear plastic evidence bags with marijuana and drug paraphernalia, among other items, were found in Gartner's squad car. None of the items had any identification information.

A third complaint alleged that an evidence bag was found in a drawer of Gartner's office desk with a smaller case with a green leafy substance consistent with marijuana. No identifying information was found on the item or bag.

Documents said that on various dates in 2013-14 Gartner seized and stored in the trunk of his assigned squad car and passenger compartment certain items without warrant, citations issued or documentation of warrantless seizures of personal property of another for alleged purpose of destruction, including drug paraphernalia, marijuana and alcohol, and he seized evidence and issued citations to suspects without properly handling the evidence or without a proper chain of custody for the evidence.

Documents said that during his time with the city he had extensive and numerous verbal and written complaints, negative performance evaluations, placement on performance improvement plans, disciplinary written reprimands, a three-day disciplinary suspension without pay for failure to follow up on a case and complete a report in timely manner, and a 10-day disciplinary suspension without pay based on three separate citizen complaints.