Cloquet Police Department Chief Jeff Palmer was cleared of eight allegations of misconduct and malfeasance made by former CPD Chief Wade Lamirande, according to a report submitted last week by investigator Michelle Soldo.
In complaints filed Feb. 5, Lamirande accused Palmer, as well as Cloquet City Administrator Aaron Reeves, Assistant City Administrator James Barclay and Ward 5 City Councilor Steve Langley, of a laundry list of misconduct related to the CPD. Reeves and Barclay were exonerated of the allegations in resolutions the City Council passed April 16. Soldo hasn't yet completed the investigation of Langley.
According to the report - sent from Teamsters Union 320, which represents Palmer, to the Fox 21 TV station - only one of the allegations against Palmer was partially substantiated. Lamirande claimed Palmer inappropriately directed a CPD officer not to discuss with Lamirande the investigation of a complaint Lamirande made. Soldo concluded that Palmer directed the officer not to talk with Lamirande regarding the investigation, but it wasn't inappropriate to do so.
Soldo's investigation concluded that all seven of the other allegations against Palmer weren't substantiated.
Lamirande's other claims accused Palmer of mishandling a complaint that Lamirande filed regarding harassing phone calls he received from CPD officers following his retirement from the CPD in 2014, as well as data privacy violations. Lamirande also claimed Palmer provided Cloquet's Citizens Advisory Board with "limited, controlled and sanitized" information regarding the complaint.
Lamirande also accused Palmer of failing to address a Brady-Giglio issue with a CPD officer who was involved in the 2017 internal investigation. Lamirande claimed a CPD officer, whose name was redacted from Soldo's report, lied during a compelled interview regarding the prank phone calls made to Lamirande.
Brady-Giglio requires investigative agencies to turn over to prosecutors any information that reflects on a law enforcement officer's credibility. Soldo concluded the allegation wasn't substantiated because it couldn't be independently verified.
"It is based on a 'he said, he said' account that cannot be independently verified," Soldo wrote in the report. "Chief Palmer credibly reported that he did not view the factual dispute as a lie and because the dispute cannot be independently verified by a witness, recording or other evidence, he did not view it as a matter that warranted an internal affairs investigation."
Lamirande disputed Soldo's findings in an interview with the Pine Journal, referring to it as a "smear campaign" and repeatedly using an expletive to describe the findings. He also said some members of the department are "demoralized" as a result of the controversy and investigations swirling around the CPD.
"Investigator Soldo - as respected as she may be - she missed a few things and that's unfortunate," Lamirande said. "Now you have Derek Randall sitting in the commander chair completely demoralized as to who he has to work with. The investigation continues and I'll leave it up to the public to be able to figure this out."
Palmer took a voluntary paid leave of absence beginning April 16, with Reeves assigning Commander Carey Ferrell to perform the chief's duties in Palmer's absence. Reeves said the leave is unrelated to Soldo's investigation, but didn't provide further comment on the reason.
Palmer declined to provide a statement regarding his leave.
Soldo also conducted an investigation into Steve Stracek - the police chief before Palmer - when he was placed on administrative leave after a "vote of no confidence" filed by Teamsters Local 346, which represents CPD officers and sergeants.
Following the investigation, Stracek was exonerated of allegations contained in the letter, but also retired as chief.