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LETTER: City in turmoil has reader asking questions

To the Editor:

What's happening to Cloquet? First our city administrator, Brian Fritsinger, quits his job and takes another in St. Louis County. He had been with the city for years and should have retired here.

Next our city police chief, Steve Stracek, is placed on administrative leave because of a complaint filed by a union representative who was on vacation and couldn't be reached. It was done in a closed session of the city council with two of the councilors not present.

Next, the interim police chief job was filled by the city council in the same closed session without public input. They chose a third-in-line police officer instead of one of the first-in-line commanders. Why would they skip over the commanders to a lower-rank person to fill the position?

What was in the "complaint" that caused so much trouble in the police department? Was it an immoral act by the chief? I don't think so. Only the city council knows, but I understand it was filed by the police union and was about work rules in the department. If that is the case, then this should have been handled through arbitration between the union and the police chief. It never should have reached the level of removing the chief of police and filling the job with an interim.

A couple of years ago I worked alongside Steve Stracek to do some work outside the police station. He asked Queen of Peace and Zion Lutheran to help repaint the garage doors and walk railings and clean up the shrubs. About 10 of us arrived that day, along with Steve, his wife and children. He did not have to help us, but he was there because he cared. This is not a person who should be on administrative leave.

Barry Bergquist