Mayor: ‘Decisions like this never easy’
by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter
The Rogers City Council agreed to accept the resignation of long-time Rogers Police Department employee Terri Hanson after an investigation by Chief Jeff Beahen about an incident that occurred in August.
Chief Beahen told the Council that Friday, Aug. 10, Hanson reported to her superiors that she had found a folder where a co-worker, who was not named, had hidden 34 citations from July that hadn’t been entered into the computer system. Hanson went on to state that she had spent the afternoon entering the citations since the co-worker had left work early that day.
The following Monday, Chief Beahen confronted the other employee, who adamantly denied Hanson’s story. Both employees were sent home while Chief Beahen began to investigate. Hanson has been on paid leave since Aug. 13.
“In the beginning, I was just trying to corroborate Ms. Hanson’s story,” Chief Beahen said.
He ran a query in the police department’s computer system that allowed him to see what citations had been entered, when, and by whom.
His search revealed that the 34 citations in question had been entered by the other employee in July. He also saw that on Aug. 10, only ten citations had been entered into the computer. Six by Hanson, four by the other employee, and all had been entered in the morning.
He followed his computer search up with an account of the paper copies of every citation issued in July. After rounding up a handful that were either misfiled, returned to the officer for more data, or voided, he determined that none were unaccounted for.
After completing his investigation, he handed his findings over to the Columbia Heights Police Department for a third-party review and they agreed with Chief Beahen’s finding that Hanson had made up the story.
Though Hanson wasn’t present at the meeting, her attorney, Kevin Beck, spoke on her behalf.
He questioned the reliability of the department’s antiquated computer system. A new system has already been purchased to replace it this fall. He also spoke of Hanson’s 15 years of faithful service to the Rogers Police Department and her dedication to the city of Rogers. He pointed out that the work she performed was widely-recognized as high quality, even by Chief Beahen. And he urged the Council that there were other measures they could take besides termination, such as a suspension.
A number of Hanson’s friends spoke on her behalf, citing her integrity and disbelief that she would have made the story up.
City Attorney, Jeff Carson, addressed the Council and advised them, “It’s not a situation of he said, she said. She said that she entered them and Chief Beahen proved that she didn’t.”
He also pointed out that Hanson continued to tell the same story he believed to be untrue. He offered to the Council his view of the scenario, that she was angry at her co-worker who had a history of taking too many sick days and leaving early, and she had finally had enough.
He asked Chief Beahen if he could continue to employ someone in his department that had been proven to be repeatedly untruthful.
“In my career, anyone that is not truthful is not retained by the agency for that very reason,” Beahen answered.
The Council and Beck worked out an agreement to allow Hanson to resign, rather than be fired.
Though the Council was unanimous in its decision, many expressed personal sentiments.
Mayor Jay Bunting offered, “This is one of those things that hits very close to home. I know Terri very well. I’ve known Terri for a number of years. I’ve been to her house. I’ve supported her in times when things were difficult. I know her kids. The people here all say the same thing, but decisions like these are never easy to make.”
Hanson’s daughter, Ashley Hanson, said she has no idea what her mother’s plans are now. She explained, “Her entire life was this police department. Nobody loves this police department and this city like she does. She never had a second thought what else she would do. She was going to work here for the rest of her life.”
In other matters, Finance Director, Lisa Wieland, announced the City’s preliminary 2013 tax levy of $5,923,447. The final budget and tax levy will be set at the Council’s regular meeting on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.
The council also heard from Elk River Area School District Supt. Mark Bezek, who presented the Council with the school district’s five year plan and discussed the school district’s levies that will be on the ballot this fall.
Voters will get to answer yes or no on whether to extend the current levy another ten years and also whether to add an additional levy that Bezek said will go to technology, curriculum, increased routine expenses, and a change to all-day kindergarten. Bezek told the Council that the school district loses 30-40 children per year because they don’t have all-day kindergarten.