A series of e-mails exchanged among Farmington City Council members, city staffers and the former police chief paint a fuller picture of the circumstances surrounding the chief’s dismissal in August.
The abrupt exit of Police Chief Brian Lindquist, whose last day was Aug. 24, upset many residents. Several hundred people flooded a City Council meeting demanding to know why Lindquist was let go.
Council Member Katie Bernhjelm cited “past demonstrations of poor leadership” as the reason for the city’s separation agreement with Lindquist, including missed meetings, poor communication and failure to consult the council before making decisions — including his decision to buy gun cameras.
A Star Tribune data request shows that decision was a particular source of frustration for two of the three council members who voted to terminate Lindquist: Bernhjelm and Robyn Craig.
Lindquist has said he was surprised to be dismissed and expressed the same confusion in the e-mails. “What am I missing here? How did this become such an issue?” he wrote.
In an interview Tuesday, Council Member Jason Bartholomay said that issues with the former chief were deep-rooted. He said council members and staffers had been complaining for years about Lindquist, who was police chief for 12 years.
Lindquist had already bought the gun cameras for his department, at a cost of about $13,000, when a public hearing was held on the purchase at an April council meeting. He didn’t need the council’s approval to buy the gun cameras because they had already been approved as an item in a previous budget. But e-mails indicate that Bernhjelm and Craig weren’t happy with the purchase.
The day after the council meeting, City Administrator David McKnight e-mailed Lindquist, saying he “got beat up good last night after the meeting on the camera issue/purchase. One of them felt they had no idea this was in the budget and a few others had similar comments.”
Days later, Bernhjelm wrote McKnight that she was “very disappointed” with how the purchase was handled. She said she felt “a little blindsided” that the transaction wasn’t addressed during the fall budgeting process.
“The purchase seems a little frivolous and in a year when we were asking the staff to make cuts of unnecessary purchases,” she wrote.
In June, Bartholomay e-mailed McKnight to move forward on “a personnel matter,” referring to Lindquist. “Don’t think it’s a good idea to wait until mid-July’s meeting and leave the person working until then,” he wrote.
In an interview, Bartholomay said he wanted the news of Lindquist’s departure out before the City Council candidate filing period ended. “I knew people would want to run,” said Bartholomay, who isn’t running for re-election.
On July 19, McKnight told the council that an agreement with Lindquist had been reached after offering him an additional $6,000.
The final separation agreement included paying Lindquist $125,770 in installments.