Former Cloquet police chief files complaints against city officials
Former Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande has leveled accusations of harassment, intimidation and misconduct against a city councilor, the police chief, city officials and a previous mayor in two complaints to the City Council filed Tuesday, Feb. 5.
In the first complaint — against Steve Langley, the Ward 5 councilor — Lamirande claims Langley falsely accused him of crimes and engaged in a pattern of intimidation by contacting Stephanie Hammitt, the interim president of Cloquet's Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, where Lamirande is the law enforcement program coordinator.
In his complaint, Lamirande said Langley also contacted the employers of Cloquet Mayor Roger Maki, Cloquet residents Steve Kolodge and Brian Smith and Esko resident Justin Krych.
In the second complaint — against Police Chief Jeff Palmer, City Administrator Aaron Reeves, Assistant City Administrator James Barclay and former Cloquet Mayor Dave Hallback — Lamirande accused Palmer of mishandling a complaint against the CPD regarding harassing phone calls he and his family members received after Lamirande retired in 2014.
Lamirande claims after he retired and was replaced by Steve Stracek, he began to receive random phone calls from CPD employees. Lamirande said officers told him his number appeared on their phone as a missed call — they were just returning the call and were unaware they had dialed Lamirande.
The calls had largely stopped until fall 2017, according to Lamirande, after he voiced support for Stracek and concerns about the elevation of Palmer to the police chief position. Stracek was placed on administrative leave following a special meeting March 16, 2017, while the City Council conducted an investigation into a "vote of no confidence" filed by the Teamsters Local 346, which represents CPD officers and sergeants.
After a lengthy investigation, Stracek was exonerated of allegations contained in the letter, but also retired as chief.
Lamirande said he began attending City Council work sessions in 2017 at the request of a few city councilors to discuss issues related the CPD schedule and officers' sick time.
On Oct. 10, 2017, Lamirande said his daughter, Katie Browne, a Twin Cities area resident, received a call from Officer Nathan Cook. In a letter to Palmer dated Nov. 1, 2017, Lamirande said Cook admitted to calling Browne, but said her number appeared on his phone as a missed call.
In an interview with the Pine Journal, Lamirande said he believes CPD officers used department software to spoof his daughter's number onto Cook's phone as a missed call. He said this is a misuse of department resources and an officer using a law enforcement database to acquire Browne's number is a violation of her Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Instead of beginning a criminal investigation by an outside agency, Palmer initiated an internal investigation. Officers were compelled to testify as part of the investigation, but any testimony gathered is inadmissible in a criminal investigation because of the officers' own Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.
Lamirande also said he offered assistance to Palmer as he transitioned to his new role as chief around this time.
Lamirande said Langley referenced his offer of help to Palmer in a text on Dec. 31, 2017. On July 16, 2018, Lamirande and Langley argued in the parking lot of L&M Fleet Supply in Cloquet. In the wake of the argument, Langley filed a complaint charging Lamirande with assault and disorderly conduct.
Palmer referred the investigation to the Grand Rapids Police Department in investigate on July 19, 2018. The independent law firm Dryer and Overom reviewed the GRPD investigation and found insufficient evidence to warrant charges.
Langley filed a second complaint against Lamirande following an incident at the Cloquet Labor Day Parade on Sept. 4, 2018. Langley alleged Lamirande was yelling at him while campaigning for newly elected Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola.
No investigation was initiated, but Lamirande said he handed a flier to someone standing near Langley. When he saw Langley close by, Lamirande immediately turned around and walked away.
Also on July 16, Lamirande claims Langley contacted Hammitt about the incident at L&M Fleet Supply. Lamirande said this fits into a pattern of Langley contacting the employers of residents who attend City Council meetings or who have been publicly supportive of Stracek.
Cloquet Area Fire District Battalion Chief Steve Kolodge said Langley contacted CAFD Chief Kevin Schroeder about Kolodge's attendance at a 2017 meeting.
Langley, one of the council's representatives on the CAFD board at the time, contacted Schroeder the next day and asked why Kolodge attended. Kolodge said he attended with his son as part of his son's Eagle Scout requirements.
Langley wasn't critical of Kolodge's job performance, but Kolodge said it doesn't matter why he was there since it was a public meeting.
Maki said he couldn't confirm Langley contacted his employer. Krych said Superior Fuel Co., his former employer, was contacted via Facebook after a letter he wrote, published in the Pine Journal, was critical of the council's handling of the CPD. However, Langley allegedly didn't contact Superior Fuel; it was Palmer's wife, Sarah Marczak-Palmer.
In a similar situation, Smith said the president of his union — the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters Local 361 — was contacted after his own letter, critical of the council, was published in the Pine Journal. Smith said Hallback — not Langley — contacted his union president.
On Aug. 21, Lamirande said Hallback contacted former Pine Journal reporter Jana Peterson and encouraged her to look at CPD incident complaint reports (ICRs) dated July 16. Lamirande said Hallback shouldn't have known anything about the ICR resulting from his L&M encounter with Langley unless it was improperly shared with Hallback by a member of the CPD.
Peterson confirmed for the Pine Journal that Hallback did contact her regarding the ICRs for July 16. She said she looked at the ICRs for that date and found “a couple of things of interest” in the files, including the complaint filed by Langley, but ultimately did not report on either.
In his complaint against City Administrator Aaron Reeves and Assistant City Administrator James Barclay, Lamirande was critical of how both men handled his data requests and the way data was provided to Cloquet's Citizens Advisory Board.
Reeves told the Pine Journal he can't comment on the complaints, but that there is little the City Council can do, other than censure, about the allegations leveled at Langley.
Calls to the CDP for comment were referred to Reeves.