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Rib Lake chief to be out of work July 1

Rib Lake chief to be out of work July 1
Derek Beckstrand listens to the police committee adjourn the June 13 meeting at which he was informed his contract would not be renewed. SASKATOON DAMM/THE STAR NEWS
Rib Lake chief to be out of work July 1
Derek Beckstrand listens to the police committee adjourn the June 13 meeting at which he was informed his contract would not be renewed. SASKATOON DAMM/THE STAR NEWS

Rib Lake Chief of Police Derek Beckstrand’s contract will not be renewed and is set to expire on June 30 of this year. Beckstrand was informed of the decision at the June 13 closed session of the Rib Lake police committee.

Beckstrand had formally requested the meeting be held in open session under state statutes regarding employment review. The meeting was paused while police committee chairman George Tesch left the meeting room to speak with the village’s attorney by phone. This call took about 10 minutes.

According to village attorney Ruth-Ann Koch, the statutory exemption the closed session was convened under was Wis. Stat. s. 19.85(1)(c), which pertains to “Consideration of Employment, Promotion, Compensation, and Performance Evaluations”.

Upon Tesch’s return, he said, “I need a motion to go into closed session.” The committee voted to go into closed session.

In reference to his request to open the session, Beckstrand asked, “Why was that rejected?”

Tesch motioned to the papers with the state statute and said, “This is null and void.”

Beckstrand responded, “How is that null and void? It is a state statute.”

Tesch said, “I can not talk about this in open session.”

“My understanding is that the closed session exemption that Mr. Beckstrand wanted to proceed under was Wis. Stat. s. 19.85(1)(b), which pertains to “Consideration of Dismissal, Demotion, Discipline, Licensing, and Tenure”. That exemption contemplates disciplinary actions against an employee, investigations into allegations of employee misconduct, etc. It also contemplates the possibility of an evidentiary hearing. None of those was See RIB LAKE on page 8 at issue here. Mr. Beckstrand was not being disciplined, demoted, dismissed, or investigated. Under this exemption (Wis. Stat. s. 19.85(1)(b)), an employee does have the right to request that the hearing and any final action be conducted in open session, although a governing body is permitted to convene in closed session to consider the evidence gathered. But again, that was not the situation here. He was not being investigated for misconduct, nor was he being demoted, disciplined, dismissed, etc., and there was no evidentiary hearing conducted,” stated Koch in an email following the meeting.

As far as Tesch’s statement about the statute allowing the employee to have the meeting in open session, Koch explained that Tesch misspoke and “what he meant was that the statute was not applicable to the situation, not that the statute itself was null and void.”

The committee members and Beckstrand exited the meeting room and went into Beckstrand’s office for the closed session.

Approximately 30 minutes later, Beckstrand exited his office and presented to The Star News with a document that states his “employment with the Village of Rib Lake has ended as of June 30, 2024.”

“[George Tesch] said they voted on it a month ago,” Beckstrand said. Beckstrand said he was informed on June 13 for the first time that he would no longer have a job.

The committee then adjourned the meeting. As committee members stood up to leave, members of the public shouted expletives and other charged comments at the committee members. Megan Beckstrand, wife of Derek Beckstrand, yelled, “You could’ve let him know so that he could have a job lined up when you didn’t give him anything!”

Beckstand’s mother asked, “What did he do? What did he do?”

Members of the committee declined to comment. Following the meeting, Koch was asked about the possible May 8 closed session action Beckstrand was told took place.

Koch wrote, “ To your question about a previous meeting where there may have been a vote to not renew the contract, I confirmed with the Village Clerk that no formal action was taken as a result of the closed session that was convened in May. To reiterate, per the terms of the Employment Agreement, no formal action is necessary on the part of the Village in order for the contract to end because the contract will automatically end at the end of this month by its very terms.”

Police coverage going forward

Going forward, after June 30, the Taylor County sheriff’s department will provide police coverage in the village on a temporary basis until a new police chief is hired. “We will be looking into getting a full time Police Chief for the Village, but until then, we are fully covered by the County,” stated Bill Schreiner, Rib Lake Village Board President.

“The Sheriff’s Office will respond to all calls for service within the Village of Rib Lake as we do for all of Taylor County. We will make efforts to spend additional time in the village on patrol, so they have a law enforcement presence,” Taylor County Sheriff Larry Woebbeking said.

“We are not receiving additional pay from the village; we are providing this service as we would for any of our cities and villages within the county. We have not added extra deputies to cover the village , we are responding to calls for service and providing extra patrol as we would for the entirety of Taylor County,” he said.

Woebbeking said that while the village has requested quotes on several options of what a dedicated deputy to the Village would cost in the past. He said he has not heard back or been involved in any talks or negotiations in reference that topic. — News Editor Brian Wilson contributed to this story.