About 30 residents crowded into the Cloquet City Council Chambers on Tuesday, Feb. 19, to listen to the councilors discuss allegations of misconduct against three city employees made by former Cloquet Chief Wade Lamirande.
During a meeting that opened and closed three times, the council ordered an external investigation of Lamirande's allegations against current CPD Chief Jeff Palmer, City Administrator Aaron Reeves and Assistant City Administrator James Barclay.
Ward 2 Councilor Sheila Lamb urged a prompt and comprehensive review.
"I feel that we need to just dive in and address these issues," she said. "We're either going to exonerate or we're not, but our city needs answers and we need to be able to put this to rest as quickly, accurately and efficiently as we possibly can."
Lamirande filed a total of eight complaints of misconduct Feb. 5 against the three, accusing Palmer in particular of mishandling a complaint Lamirande filed in 2017 regarding harassing phone calls made by members of the CPD to Lamirande and a family member following his 2014 retirement. Lamirande also accused Palmer of violating data privacy laws regarding a criminal complaint filed by Steve Langley - Cloquet's Ward 5 councilor.
Lamirande also filed a second complaint Feb. 5 against Langley claiming he falsely accused him of crimes and engaged in a pattern of intimidation when he contacted Stephanie Hammitt, the interim president of Cloquet's Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, where Lamirande is the law enforcement program coordinator.
Langley requested the council also discuss the allegations made against him, but Reeves said the city attorney is still reviewing the documents. The council will discuss those allegations at its March 19 meeting.
Langley filed a criminal complaint against Lamirande following an argument in the parking lot of L&M Fleet Supply in Cloquet on July 16, 2018, charging Lamirande with assault and disorderly conduct. Palmer referred the investigation to the Grand Rapids Police Department on July 19. The independent law firm Dryer and Overom reviewed the GRPD investigation and found insufficient evidence to warrant charges.
Lamirande accused Palmer of violating data privacy laws regarding the complaint because former Cloquet Mayor Dave Hallback contacted former Pine Journal reporter Jana Peterson and encouraged her to look at CPD incident complaint reports 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.
Hallback, who was also named in the complaint against Palmer, Reeves and Barclay, attended the Tuesday, Feb. 19, meeting and disputed some of Lamirande's claims. He cast his complaints as those of a disgruntled former employee.
"Wade's just mad he didn't get his way on a couple of issues," Hallback said.
Following the closed sessions, Hallback spoke to the council during the public comments portion of the meeting and referred to Lamirande as "narcissistic" and his complaints as "vindictive."
He also directly contradicted one of Lamirande's claims, saying it was Langley who told him of the criminal complaint - not Palmer or any other CPD officer.
Hallback disputed a claim made by Cloquet resident Brian Smith in response to Lamirande's complaint. Smith said the president of his union - the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters Local 361 - was contacted by Hallback after a letter Smith wrote that was critical of the council was published in the Pine Journal.
Reeves, Barclay and Palmer all declined to comment on Lamirande's complaints, citing the pending investigation.