The city of Nisswa received national attention after its mayor was arrested Aug. 29 following a profanity-laced tirade against two police officers conducting a traffic stop of a third party along Highway 371 in Nisswa.
Nisswa Mayor Fred Heidmann, whose term as mayor expired Thursday, Dec. 31, chastised Nisswa and Pequot Lakes police officers who were in the midst of conducting a Toward Zero Deaths traffic stop unrelated to the mayor, ending with his arrest for obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct.
The incident began when Heidmann, at his business along Highway 371, was videotaping the traffic stop and then walked across the highway toward the vehicle that was pulled over. According to police reports, Heidmann was advised he could videotape the incident, but to stand back away from the highway to be safe. Heidmann asked what the officers were doing and why they stopped the vehicle and words were exchanged.
During the incident Heidmann made statements to officers such as “You guys are just as bad as the cops in Minneapolis,” “I’m the mayor of this (expletive) town” and “You guys are (expletive) (expletive),” according to body camera footage from officers.
In a written statement by Heidmann after the incident, he stated he was concerned with what he saw and described Toward Zero Deaths as a “trap” to set up in Nisswa. He stated he would fight the charges from the incident because he had a right to free speech and the traffic stop was over when the confrontation occurred. Heidmann went to the scene two different times during the incident.
Heidmann is expected to be arraigned Jan. 6, 2021. According to the Crow Wing County Attorney’s Office, Heidmann’s case was moved to St. Louis County District Court because of a conflict of interest.
The incident was on a Saturday and the city council met the following Friday, Sept. 4, for a special meeting. The city received 280 emails with more than 90% opposed to the mayor’s action and 100 phone calls about the incident during that week.
At the meeting, the council made a motion to censure Heidmann, which is a public reprimand of his behavior; removed him from city committees; and asked him to resign as his behavior was unprofessional, it tarnished the city’s image and business sales and his statements to police and the public do not reflect what council members individually or as a city think and believe.
Heidmann, who did not attend the meeting, did not resign. Instead, the mayor spoke out at a later city council meeting Sept. 16. Heidmann spoke from the public podium rather than his mayor’s seat. Heidmann spoke about alleged past misconduct allegations against the city’s police chief and police officers and claimed disrespectful behavior by three longtime city employees. His claims included poor police conduct and how an officer or officers may have been having sex with a woman or women at city hall. No action was taken at this meeting.
At the city council’s Oct. 16 meeting, the mayor asked council members to launch an investigation into his alleged claims and investigate the Nisswa Police Department, Nisswa police chief and a number of city employees for varying kinds of personal misconduct. Heidmann also advised the council to hire a third-party firm to undertake the investigation, as well as provide channels for people to communicate their concerns without fear of retribution.
Heidmann stated he’s tried to reform how the city addresses employee issues in the past and while he didn’t have any official complaints to address he said there’s evidence in meeting transcripts that the council discussed misconduct and are negligent in their duties by ignoring the issue.
Council members stated the mayor’s claims were vague accusations and hearsay and they were not aware about any of the incidents Heidmann was alleging.
The mayor’s request for an investigation was voted down, 4-0 with Heidmann abstaining. Heidmann’s motion to hire a third-party firm to undertake the investigation failed for lack of a second.
Outside of the arrest incident, Heidmann was criticized this past summer by the city council for making controversial Facebook comments. Heidmann made social media posts expressing solidarity for racially charged sentiments by Forestview Middle School teacher Kara Hall. Hall resigned as a school teacher after she made the Facebook comments about the riots in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s death that drew community outrage for what many deemed racist content. A number of other politically charged social media posts were also scrutinized.