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The Regional Report: Motley council disciplines police chief; Aitkin business seeks relief from Officer Down 5K org

AITKIN

An Aitkin business is bringing a national events management company to court, seeking to recover more than $12,000, the Aitkin Independent Age reported. The for-profit company puts on "Officer Down 5K" events around the country, including one in Aitkin in 2016 dedicated to Aitkin County Investigator Steve Sandberg, killed in the line of duty the previous year. Shirts Plus of Aitkin provided shirts for the event and entered a one-year contract with the business to become a bib sponsor and exclusive printer.

Volunteer event coordinator Krista Olson told the Age the financial breakdown provided by the company "just didn't seem right," and the amount of money donated to a Sandberg memorial fund seemed paltry.

Comments from either party in the suit were unavailable, the Age reported. The matter is set to go before an Aitkin County judge Tuesday.

BREEZY POINT

Former Brainerd City Administrator Patrick Wussow was selected to lead city staff in Breezy Point, the Echo Journal reported. Wussow was offered the position by the Breezy Point City Council after its first choice turned down the job to stay in Arizona. Wussow will be paid a salary of $87,651 in his new role.

DEERWOOD

The Deerwood City Council set a deadline for applications to fill an open seat on its council following the resignation of member Debby Leonard last month, the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported. Those interested in filling the seat must submit a letter to the city by Feb. 23, and would serve the remainder of the term through the November election. The council plans to select a replacement at its March meeting.

ISLE

Just months after leaving the city of Deerwood to serve in Isle as city clerk, Jeff Turk was handed his last paycheck, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. The Isle City Council asked Turk to resign by Monday during a Jan. 29 special meeting, although Turk told the Messenger Monday he had no intention of submitting a resignation letter. The Messenger outlined a number of open meeting law concerns with how the city council conducted its business with the special meetings, including the failure to notify Messenger staff despite a formal request for the city to do so.

Conduct prompting Isle council members to seek Turk's resignation was not outlined in the Messenger story, although more information was expected in the paper's next edition following the Monday night meeting. Turk had not received a response from the city requesting specific reasons of termination as of Monday.

MILLE LACS COUNTY

In a counterclaim to a lawsuit it faces, Mille Lacs County claims the Mille Lacs Reservation does not exist, the Mille Lacs Messenger reported. The county filed the counterclaim as part of a federal lawsuit pursued by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, stemming from an ongoing dispute concerning law enforcement jurisdiction. Over the course of a 34-page document, the county references its claim the reservation does not exist about 60 times, the Messenger reported. The county based this claim on a longstanding belief the reservation was disestablished in 1855 and never re-established.

MORRISON COUNTY

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday in District 5 of Morrison County to narrow the field of candidates vying for a seat on the county board, the Morrison County Record reported. Three candidates—Greg Blaine, Charlie Gunderson and Ken Primus—will become two by April, when a new commissioner will be chosen in a special election. The men are seeking to fill the seat left open following the sudden death of Commissioner Duane Johnson, who died in October.

MOTLEY

Five days without pay and six months of probation are among the disciplinary actions taken against Motley police Chief Ron Smith, the Staples World reported. Smith's privilege to take home a squad car was also revoked until further notice, and Smith has 30 days to complete "certain actions," the World reported.

City Clerk/Treasurer Lacey Smieja told the World the subject of two closed meetings in January concerning Smith's conduct included violations of the city's employee manual requiring annual firearms training and a section dictating an officer be "properly armed for the protection of society and themselves." The discipline also centered on violations of the city's personnel policy, including the following sections: willful misconduct or insubordination, failure to report or refusal to work when necessary to keep essential services operating and incompetence in the performance of duties.

STAPLES

The Staples-Motley School Board has a new member after Brad Anderson was selected from a field of five applicants, the Staples World reported. Anderson previously served on the school board 2010-14. Board members who voted for Anderson said this experience would assist him in jumping in for what amounts to an eight-month appointment.

Based on the district's most recent audit, Staples-Motley interim Superintendent Ron Bratlie said he intended to recommend $800,000 in budget cuts, the Staples World reported. Bratlie said both staff and program cuts should be considered. Board member Mary Freeman suggested the board evaluate cuts made in 2014-15, noting many of those budget cuts were returned to the budget.

-- Compiled by Chelsey Perkins, community editor. Perkins may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @DispatchChelsey or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dispatchchelsey.

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