Public hearing next step in grievances against Mayor

Staff Writer

A public hearing concerning grievances filed by Broken Bow police officers in regards to conduct of the Broken Bow Mayor is the next step in the process of determining the outcome from an incident that took place in Broken Bow in the early morning hours of April 6.

A memo dated April 26, 2019 to the Broken Bow City Council from City Attorney Jason White states Broken Bow Police Officer Ben Tucker and Officer David Taylor have requested a full review in front of the City Council in open session.

A memo from Mayor Jon Berghorst submitted to the City Council, Tucker, Taylor and and Police Chief Steve Scott dated the same day states the grievants failed to follow grievance procedures as outlined in Broken Bow Police Handbook. The memo also states the grievants did not request a Mayoral Review with the necessary seven days of completed the third step of the process and therefore the grievances fail. The grievance process, as described in the Police Handbook, is a six-step procedure.

In a responding letter dated April 30, 2019, City Council President Rod Sonnichsen stated Steps 1 through 3 were “completely entirely within allotted time frames.” During Step 3, which is a documented meeting, the fourth step, a Mayoral Review, was explained in depth and offered as an option. Both officers opted to not use Step 4 as the grievances filed are in regards to actions of the Mayor and it would be a conflict.

Both officers submitted signed letters dated April 26 to the City Clerk stating each has choose to not do Step 4 and request the process go to Step 5. “All steps and procedures have been reviewed for completeness by the Attorney General,” Sonnichsen stated in the responding letter to the Mayor.

In an April 18 letter to the City Attorney, Mayor Berghorst designated council member Larry Miller to act in his place under the fourth step.

Below are abbreviations of the six steps from the Police Handbook:
Step 1: Verbal. The grievants shall attempt resolution in informal, verbal discussion with his/her supervisor.
Step 2: Written. If resolution is not reached in Step 1, the aggrieved employee shall file a written grievance with the Chief of Police or the Chief’s designated representative.
Step 3: Meeting. If resolution is not reached in Step 2, the grievant(s) and City Administrator or designee shall meet to attempt resolution.
Step 4: Mayoral Review. If resolution is not reached in Step 3, the grievant(s) may file for a review with the Mayor.
Step 5: Hearing. If resolution is not reached in Step 4, the grievant(s) may request a hearing before the City Council.
Step 6: Judicial Review: An employee is not deprived of the right to present grievance issue to courts of competent jurisdiction at any time.

Notes/minutes from the documented meeting (Step 3) which took place April 16 state that no resolution was reached and the next normal step would be Mayoral Review. The minutes state “The Mayor will have a conflict of interest and can’t settle a grievance against himself.” Therefore, the next step is Step 5, a public hearing. The hearing can be closed if all parties agree, however, if one person wants an open session, the hearing must be open. Both officers have requested a hearing in open session.

As of this time, the date of the hearing is not known. The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14 at 6 p.m. at the Broken Bow Public Library.

The Custer County Chief received public records and information from the city by submitting a request for public information.