Tom Franklin has served as a police officer in Royalton for over 10 years. On Tuesday, Franklin was removed from that position. While in most cases closed meetings are held by government officials when discussing personnel issues, Franklin requested his meeting be open to the public.
Franklin was under investigation by the city for complaints, some of which included harassment, sexual harassment, improperly accessing public records, being outside the city limits for lengthy periods of time and concerns from the Morrison County Attorney’s Office regarding some traffic stops.
Franklin had been placed on administrative leave in July pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The investigation for the city was conducted by Police Chief Lindsay Bruyere.
“I have asked that this meeting be kept open to the public because I feel that I owe not only yourselves but also members of the community answers for recent events that have taken place and to respond to the report that you all have been presented with,” Franklin said.
He described how proud he had been to be a Royalton police officer and how he would do whatever he could to make a positive impact on those he came in contact with.
“Although this quality can be a very positive one, it can also become a burden if left unchecked,” Franklin said.
“As police officers, a large amount of our job entails discretion and requires a great deal of checks and balances,” Franklin said. “Although I had received letters from the county attorneys office stating that some of my actions and tactics could be viewed as questionable, I always informed my former supervisor of these letters and sought guidance from him every time. We discussed case law, currently acceptable tactics and guidelines that needed to be followed.”
Each time, Franklin said his former supervisor instructed him to continue to perform his duties the way he had been and that no corrective action was needed.
“When I returned to work after my injury I sustained in the line of duty and the lengthy recovery that came along with it, I noticed an abnormally high amount of my traffic stops and drug arrests were being questioned by the county attorneys office. I requested that the city send me to additional training to help refresh my knowledge and update acceptable tactics. But, I never received funding or approval to do so,” Franklin said.
He said he recognized the fact that the county attorney as the final authority to enforce the law and prosecute crimes in Morrison County and Royalton.
“But I still needed to take direction from my chief and follow orders or risk being disciplined for insubordination,” Franklin said.
“I, like everyone else in the room, am not perfect and am guilty of making mistakes in my personal life. I am deeply sorry for allowing one of those mistakes to carry over into my professional life,” Franklin said.
He apologized for the investigation being necessary and thanked the Council for allowing him to respond to the investigation.
“I always have and still do enjoy and take great pride in being a police officer for the city of Royalton and hope you permit me to return to work and continue to serve the community,” he said.
Presented to the Council Monday, were several allegations of sexual harassment to employees at a local business, also information regarding a restraining order against Franklin.
Addressing concerns, many of which there is no written verification for, City Attorney Sue Dege told the Council when making their decision, they should consider sections of the Peace Officer Code of Conduct. Sections pointed out included, in part, a peace officer should treat all with personal respect; a peace officer shall not conduct an act of sexual harassment and a peace officer should not conduct unwelcome actions.
The motion to terminate Franklin for conduct unbecoming a police officer passed unanimously.
Following the action to terminate Franklin, Mayor Andrea Lauer said, “This is the first time in 13 years that we have dealt with this type of issue. It has been hard on council members. I appreciate the work of our Chief of Police Bruyere, City Clerk Carol Madsen and Deputy Clerk Leah Walberg for all their work. Also our City Attorney Sue Dege for guiding us through this process.”
Royalton City Council Briefs
In other business Tuesday, the Royalton City Council:
• Approved the purchase of a 2020 Chevy Tahoe for the police department at a cost of $35,960. The vehicle will be purchased from Ranger Chevrolet, Hibbing and is expected to be delivered in early 2020;
• Accepted a bid of $18,501 submitted by Mike Newman for the drug forfeited 1999 Chevy pickup;
• Approved a $1,100 bid for two batteries from Hurst eDraulic for the Fire Department’s jaws of life equipment;
• Adopted a resolution allowing the city’s part-time police officers to participate in PERA Police/Fire fund;
• Approved changes in the liquor license policy. Language now includes the number of licenses permitted in the cities and control of micro breweries, etc. will be regulated by state statute;
• Adopted changes to the city’s civility policy to include city employees, contractors, elected officials and volunteers; and
• Approved a request by the Planning Commission to combine the dog ordinance and the animal ordinance.
The next regular meeting of the Royalton City Council is Tuesday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m.