Five of the six Bismarck police officers who resigned at the end of a more than seven-hour meeting that began the evening of Aug. 22 and stretched into the early morning have delivered letters rescinding their resignations, according to Bismarck city officials.
Mayor Seth Radford, now recovering from a stroke which precluded him from being present at that Aug. 22 meeting, said that while he has not received the letters from the officers, he understands that they have been delivered to city hall.
“I was not at the meeting, obviously, for health reasons,” Radford said. “As far as I know, the officers had resigned to the board at the board meeting and had quit their jobs. From that point on, the chief has moved forward and we’ve had to fill the schedule since then. At their request, from what I’m told, they didn’t want to be on the schedule and didn’t want to work for the city anymore. Now there’s the letters of rescinsion, which I have not gotten myself. I do believe they’re up at city hall, and I will work to get up there and get them.”
Radford and Police Chief Steven Poole both said that since the resignations more than a week ago there has been no lapse in police coverage for the city.
“There has been no lack of coverage since they resigned,” Poole said. “We’ve had 24 hours a day, 7 days a week coverage since their resignation. Scheduling going forward has the exact same coverage with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week coverage. The officers who resigned were part-time officers operating in a part-time capacity.
“We are still staffing the schedule and it’s fully covered. We have all shifts covered. We’re handling calls and everything is operating at optimal performance.”
Saying that the officers’ letters rescinding their resignations were delivered to city hall and not to him, Poole declined to comment on the status of the officers’ resignation, as it would be a matter handled by the board of aldermen.
“It’s a matter that is a personnel matter and is going to have to go before the board again,” Radford said. “That meeting will be (Sept. 13). I do know that five of the officers are wanting to come back, from what I understand, to work for the city. Again, that is a personnel matter and will be addressed on Sept. 13 at our board meeting.”
With the situation evolving rapidly and compounding with the difficulty presented by the mayor’s health concerns, Radford said that the situation seems to grow more complicated each day.
“The board never once said that they were not going to render a decision,” Radford said. “All they wanted was the time to look at the information. The board was never given a chance to look at all the information that was brought to them at that meeting and address it, so the board is looking into all of the situation. They’re processing the information and on the 13th we’ll discuss it.”
Without having the opportunity to meet with the board and discuss the matter yet, Radford said he is unable to say what kind of progress will be made at the next meeting, but that it will be addressed.
“They (the board) were working to resolve the one set of issues, but now all that changed and now we have another change,” he said. “There’s so much changing daily that it is very hard to get all the information processed. Every meeting there is so much changing, so I won’t know until the board is all together.”
Through all of the difficulties and frustrations expressed between the board, along with the the police officers and the residents of Bismarck, Radford said the priority has been to maintain the safety of citizens.
“The one thing that has been for sure is that the schedule has been filled, we have a police officer on at all times and the citizens are still being covered,” Radford said. “That’s our main goal — we want the safety of the citizens.”
Attorney Michael Randazzo, who is also a relative of one of the officers, was present with the officers during the meeting that ended with their resignations.
“I don’t have too much of a role with what’s going on now,” Randazzo said Thursday. “It was the officers’ own decision to go back to the board and it’s been that way since the beginning. I wasn’t telling them what to do, but I was giving them advice.”
Randazzo said it seems that a driving factor for the officers’ rescinding of their resignations was to ensure that the original controversies in the department are addressed.
“One of the motivators they had was that they kept being told that there could be no resolution to this because the officers were no longer employed by the city, so there was nothing to resolve,” he said. “I think that was a motivator, to say, ‘Look, we’re willing to go back to work and we want to go back to work but we need to resolve this.’”
Randazzo additionally believes that the officers didn’t necessarily terminate their employment at the moment of submitting their resignation, but essentially gave two weeks’ notice, which is why they wished to rescind their resignation before too much time had elapsed, although the board of alderpersons does indeed need to have the necessary time to make the decisions it needs to make.
“They need to be provided the time to make whatever decision they need to make,” Randazzo said. “But I think what the officers were worried about in the meantime is if the period of time expired that they were no longer employed there, then no decisions would happen because the justification would be that they didn’t work there anymore.”
Randazzo additionally said that his role in the process was essentially fulfilled the night of the meeting, but that he would give additional advice to the officers if asked to do so.
The meeting that resulted in the resignation of the officers was focused around a situation involving Officer Jennifer Hulsey, who had left Bismarck to assist DFS with a call in Iron Mountain Lake and was subsequently suspended by Chief Poole.
At the end of the meeting, the board announced that it would not make a decision that night, but would take time to consider all of the information that had been presented to it by officers, residents and Poole.
Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at email@example.com.