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Rolfe cop under fire

Council votes 4-1 in favor of dismissing Westering for misconduct

August 28, 2012
Messenger News


ROLFE - The Rolfe City Council voted 4 to 1 to recommend Mayor Mike Hayek dismiss the city's lone police officer for misconduct Monday night.

Police Chief Don Westering said he had done nothing to deserve dismissal and that the whole thing was "a personal attack" against him.

The city hall was packed with citizens for the meeting to hear public comment on the town's law enforcement.

Letters from community members contained various allegations against Westering.

Among the allegations was that he'd had inappropriate contact with a 16-year-old girl, with whom he was allegedly seen "rolling around together on the floor" in a grocery store, that they were seen sitting in the car together in a way that "didn't seem appropriate," and that the minor girl was seen to enter Westering's office and close the door after the city clerk had gone home for the night.

After the meeting, Hayek said he had received letters from the girl and her father stating that nothing inappropriate had happened.

"Her dad is ex-military. I'm pretty sure he would have dealt with it," Hayek said.

During the meeting, Rolfe resident Mary Allen accused Westering of "gross misconduct, misbehavior, putting fear into the people of Rolfe, tracking people, following people just to get them nervous.

"He's being too aggressive with his authority," she said.

Several citizens stated that Westering was unable to police the town properly since he lives in Manson, which is 25 miles away.

Others suggested Westering was getting undue credit for solving a July 31 burglary, when they felt the credit should go to the Humboldt police.

Jon Tiernan, the son of the couple whose house was burglarized, spoke in support of Westering.

Tiernan said he was "appalled" at what he had witnessed at earlier council meetings dealing with this same issue.

"I witnessed childish behave from council members and residents of this town," Tiernan said.

Rolfe resident Linda Booth said she supported Westering. She said he was always polite and follows through with calls.

After listening to public comment and taking some time to read the letters, the council asked Westering some questions and gave him the opportunity to speak.

"I have done nothing wrong. I know some of them feel that way because it's a personal issue," he said. "The (letters) I have separated there, I can disprove the majority of that. I have the right to have an investigation to prove that. I have done my job well. I know I'm going to make people mad, but that's part of the job."

Hayek asked the council what action they wanted to take.

Council member David Thoren suggested they give Westering some time to prove or disprove the allegations.

"People have had the opportunity to speak," said council member Lana Pratt. "We had the opportunity to look at the letters, and Don looked at letters. I'd like to make a motion to dismiss our current officer for misconduct."

Under Iowa law the mayor makes hiring and firing decisions for the chief of police, with the approval of the council.

Pratt, Al Kuchenreuther, Joni Ham and Joe Ramaekers voted for the recommendation, while Thoren voted against.

"Based on our handling, allegations have come out about Don that need to be investigated," Hayek said. "I don't feel an investigation was done by just reading these letters."

Hayek said he would make his final decision on Westering's employment in two weeks' time.

After the meeting, Westering told The Messenger certain members of the council were trying to go after him personally for no reason.

"I've been there going on four years now, and I think a minimum of six times they tried to fire me. They have never had grounds to do it, but they keep on trying," he said.

"Every one of them that had a complaint, I've had to deal with, and they don't like it."



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