A trip to detox lands New Prague official in hot water

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2010 - 9:49 AM

New Prague City Council Member and former cop Ken Betterton is accused of threatening to cut police budgets during a drunken tirade.

On the website touting his leadership training programs, New Prague City Council Member and former cop Ken Betterton brags about "his judgment enabling him to motivate and inspire local law enforcement officials."

But according to a police report, when New Prague officers found him drunk on his knees in the grass earlier this month and asked for the phone number of his wife, who is a Minnesota state trooper, Betterton responded: "Yeah, 1-800 eat my ass."

That motivated the officers to arrest Betterton and take him to a detox center in New Ulm. In a profanity-laced tirade on the way to detox, Betterton threatened the officer's job security and hinted he might cut the police budget, according to police reports.

Betterton, 55, was issued a disorderly conduct citation for the July 9 outburst. One of Betterton's fellow council members said Wednesday his conduct was appalling and could prompt his ouster before his term expires at the end of the year.

"I believe it's an abuse of his title and his power and could be grounds for that possibility," said Council Member Kristin Guerrette, the general manager of the local radio station in New Prague, a city of about 5,000 people 45 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

"People drink and say things that maybe they shouldn't say or use choice language," Guerrette said. "But the part that appalled me the most is when he threatened the security of the police officer's job in his standing as a council member."

Betterton was out of town Wednesday and declined to return phone calls but said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune: "I made a horrible stupid mistake, I am prepared to make it right for all concerned."

He said he won't seek reelection this fall.

"It is very painful and embarrassing," he said. "I got very intoxicated and said stupid things. I was not in an official capacity, but [acting] as an individual. I will apologize to the citizens of New Prague and have already apologized to the Police Department."

According to the police report, Betterton had been drinking "excessively" at Schumacher's Restaurant and Hotel in New Prague when someone called police, fearing he was going to drive away in his yellow two-door convertible. Witnesses said he was in a heated argument, threatened to assault people when they called him a taxi and "was going crazy" on the inn's front porch.

Betterton, a former Marine and state trooper commander in Utah, began swearing at officers when they arrived, saying, "None of you know about police work" and "I've just become your worst nightmare."

"Betterton would state: 'that if he goes down, he's taking the whole [expletive] city with him,'" the police reports say.

On his way to detox, he told officers he was a retired cop "and I'm gonna own you, your wife, your house, your family, you little [expletive]."

According to officer Tim Applen's report, Betterton told him: "that I might not have a car to drive anymore ... that times are tough and the budget's tight ... and I would have to sit down and have a talk to keep my job and continue to work for the city."

Applen said he told Betterton he was not interested in his political position but was aware he was threatening to make budget cuts. Then the Brown County detox van came and took him away.

Betterton was appointed to his City Council seat in 2009 when another council member resigned.

New Prague Mayor Bink Bender declined to comment on Betterton's alleged conduct, saying only "it isn't for me to judge one way or another."

Police Chief Mark Vosejpka confirmed the arrest and citation but said, "As far as his political position, we're not going to make any comments. We just deal with the arrest and stay out of the politics."

Betterton is the CEO and owner of a training company that specializes in working with people in positions of authority. On the top of his leadership training website, Betterton sums up his business as: "Showing people who are in a position of authority how to use their power for the collective common good."

To which Guerrette, his fellow council member, said, "It's definitely a very ironic situation."

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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