Workshop: Police Civil Service Commission Interviews
April 9, 2006, 6:30 PM, Maplewood City Hall
Conspicuously Unofficial Notes by JN
The meeting began later than scheduled, since there had been two previous workshops the same afternoon. There was one open seat on the commission, after the council had previously voted 3 to 2 against reappointing the seat's previous occupant, and two new candidates. The candidates were asked to remain outside while the council picked their questions. The council members had a list of questions before them, and each picked one from the list to ask. (Councilmember Kathy Juenemann said she wished to take either question #3 or #4 from the list, and settled on #3; Councilmember Will Rossbach subsequently chose #4.) The same questions would be asked of both applicants.
Juenemann had a comment. She said the there is a need to remember that this commission is different from the others in that it is established by statute; is smaller than the others; and some amount of knowledge or expertise is probably a lot more important than for other commissions, particularly because of there only being three members. Also it meets intermittently, on an as-needed basis, and when there are meetings they can be rather sudden and urgent.
Mayor Diana Longrie said the point about statute is important. She asked, is there any provision for orientation of a new member? City Manager Greg Copeland said that after the last meeting, he requested that city attorney H. Alan Kantrud prepare a sort of orientation for the entire commission, not just the new person, to help them understand their duties (at least as understood by the city and the city's attorney, one supposes, since the exact nature of the duties and powers of the PCSC itself seems to be an issue of contention in a current lawsuit involving the city) under the statute.
Juenemann had one added question. It might be water under the bridge, but the incumbent, voted on singly the month before (which was kind of odd), leaves them with three candidates, only one with experience or knowledge of the position. Longrie said this isn't a continuation of the earlier process; that applicant was voted down, and then the application process was reopened, so the sitting commissioner is not being reconsidered with the two new candidates.
Copeland went to bring in the first candidate, David Bartol.
Councilmember Rebecca Cave asked the first question: “Tell us your experience if any in dealing with any confidential personnel matters.” Bartol replied that he runs an apartment complex, and as part of his job he screens prospective tenants, running credit checks for example. He described his procedures for keeping such information private. So it was not personnel per se, he allowed, but it did involve confidentiality.
Juenemann presented her question as a “two-parter.” She asked first, “Do you have any experience or knowledge of the day-to-day police operations in our city?” Bartol answered that he had very little. On occasion they need police service at the building they manage, and he has found the city police responding on those occasions to be very professional. Also he suggested that he thinks Chief Thomalla does a very good job. The second part of the question was: “What do you think are the major challenges for law enforcement in Maplewood today?” Bartol answered, When something happens, you call in and they take care of it. You need experienced poeple, with good judgements, but you can't predict what the problems will be. You just need a mature, responsible, trained, professional group in the police department to handle the situation.
Rossbach: “As a commissioner, you could be called upon to investigate charges against a police officer. You need to determine guilt or innocence, and determine punishment if the officer is found guilty. What experience and skills qualify you to do this duty?” Bartol responded “off the cuff” that he has managed a couple of soccer teams for five years. There are times that parents and kids overstep their bounds. You have to communicate with them, do it in a way that is fair and respectful, and he's done that. Also he discussed dealing with situations with tenants, and the importance of dealing fairly and with respect, and make decisions in proportion to the problems. Also, off the cuff, he is a Christian, and feels guided by the golden rule, of treating others as he would like to be treated. He added that there do have to be penalties to stop bad behavior.
Longrie asked, “What qualifications or experience do you have that would add to the commission's deliberations?” Bartol explained that he's a good listener. He knows for instance, from his time on the city council, the importance of talking to the staff. He really respects the police in Maplewood; the happiest moments in his time on the council was when they swore in some new officers. He also suggested that he can do a good job working with union members, as his family has a union background.
Councilmember Erik Hjelle: “What motivated you to apply for a commission position?” Bartol explained that his motivation was to serve the community. There was a position, it wasn't being filled, it needed to be filled, so he felt he should volunteer. It's not something he was looking for, but he feels everyone has to do their part to help the community they live in. He wants to serve, to do the job that needs to be done.
Asked in closing if he had any questions to ask the council, he joked to ask about the pay schedule for the volunteer commissioners. He also said that he heard, after submitting his application, that there was some controversy. “Am I going into a situation?” he wondered. Longrie said it may be a legal question that they couldn't answer. She said that she thinks everyone on the commission wants to do their statutory duty and serve the good of the community.
Kantrud said, more directly, the commission hasn't been sued, so it isn't a party to any litigation.
Bartol followed up his question by asking, if it ever comes to a situation where the commission or commissioners are sued, the city would back them up? Kantrud answered what happens, as in this situation, is that the city is sued; there would be no personal liability for commissioners.
Bartol left and the next candidate entered.
Lisa Marie Liddell introduced herself with a confession that she was “a little nervous — I haven't been interviewed in over 20 years.”
The same questions were asked by the same councilmembers. Responding to Cave's query about experience with confidential personnel matters, Liddell said she had been a manager at Liberty Check Printers for many years, dealing with such things. She also serves on the supervisory committee at Postal Credit Union, and there has to oversee the board of directors, financials, etc.
Juenemann asked her two-part question. Liddell admitted she knew nothing about daily police department operations. As to the question of the major challenges facing the Maplewood police, she responded, “I would probably have to say the staffing,” maintaining the proper number of officers on the street.
Again it was Rossbach's turn to ask, “As a commissioner, you could be called upon to investigate charges against a police officer. You need to determine guilt or innocence, and determine punishment if the officer is found guilty. What experience and skills qualify you to do this duty?” Liddell reported that she did have to investigate and discipline employees when she was a manager at Liberty Check Printers. She also has had to investigate situations and bankruptcy situations in the Postal Credit Union.
As a follow-up question, Rossbach asked about her resume, which indicated that she had left Liberty in 2005. Liddell explained that she left the corporate world to buy and run a Dairy Queen, her current entrepreneurial occupation.
In response to Longrie's, “What qualifications or experience do you have that would add to the commission's deliberations?” Liddell described herself as fair, open minded, and not biased in any way. “I think you have to just look at all the facts, and not let the personal things get in the way of the facts.”
Hjelle offered the last interview question: “What motivated you to apply for a commission position?” Liddell explained that she was looking on the Maplewood city website, because she wanted to get involved with the community where she lives. Looking at the different opportunities, this one sounded interesting and the time commitment looked like it was manageable.
Liddell did not have any questions for the council, so she left the room as the council discussed the details of balloting.
The votes were handed in for tallying, an the results were announced later that evening during the regular city council meeting that followed. Liddell was appointed.