RED WING -- A vote couched as approving a disciplinary letter was actually termination. Roger Pohlman is finished as police chief after the City Council met in a closed session starting at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19. The session lasted about 75 minutes.
When the council entered into the public portion of the meeting, six of the seven members voted to issue a disciplinary letter, naming neither Pohlman nor the reason for their decision. Kim Beise voted no.
Before the meeting, Pohlman’s attorney asked the city to open it to the public. The city declined the request.
The council’s meeting this evening came despite not giving a public reason for placing the chief on administrative leave early last week. Pohlman was given no opportunity to address the council.
With no discussion in open session, the council voted Friday night. An hour later, details of the letter started circulating the community. Delivered to his home, the letter states he was finished effective immediately.
The announcement of Pohlman's paid administrative leave, starting Monday, Feb. 8, sparked both support and frustrations from the community.
Minnesota Rep. Barb Haley, Red Wing, sent a letter to the City Council, Mayor Mike Wilson and Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann on Wednesday, Feb. 17. In the letter Haley stressed the need for transparency in this process.
Haley wrote, “While respecting that the council has been elected to serve the citizens of Red Wing with decisions relating to city government, a number of citizens have contacted me with concerns about the lack of transparency by the City Council in both making this decision and the lack of clear explanation of why it was made. They now ask how the council will prioritize public safety. A week has gone by and the citizens of Red Wing still have no more information on what exactly caused the City Council to make this decision and they are seeking answers. The public deserves a functioning and well-run police department, something Chief Pohlman had delivered.”
Haley also voiced support for Pohlman:
“I believe that he has served our community well and I have found him to be a fair, honest, professional and committed public servant.”
Meanwhile, this morning former City Council member John Becker posted to Red Wing Convo on Facebook the partial results of a Red Wing Personnel Committee survey of police officers. The council never discussed the survey, which was accepted Nov. 23, 2020, via the consent agenda.
Becker, who gave Pohlman a superior performance rating in 2020, noted the officers’ responses to question No. 8:
Do you believe morale has been damaged by city leadership and/or government?
Yes (27) — 96.43% No (1) — 3. 57%.
Janie Farrar, former Red Wing School Board member and 2020 mayoral candidate, posted a petition in support of Pohlman to the Red Wing Convo page. According to Farrar, 250 people had signed the petition by this morning.
At least one other community member worked to plan a protest today against Pohlman. This is after a group gathered to protest outside of the former chief’s house on Sept. 4.
When Pohlman was placed on leave, Capt. Gordon Rohr and Capt. Travis Bray were tapped to lead the department. An interim chief has not yet been named.
Pohlman's status was unclear Friday night.
This is a developing story.