Bestul to remain as acting Brainerd police chief through 2021
After the top two candidates chosen to replace outgoing chief Corky McQuiston, the council agreed to have Deputy Chief Mike Bestul continue on as acting police chief through at least the end of the year.
Brainerd will not have a new police chief until next year.
Chief Deputy Mike Bestul — who was appointed as acting chief Jan. 4 — will remain in that post through at least the end of the year, the Brainerd City Council decided Monday, Jan. 19.
The decision comes after the top two candidates chosen to replace recently retired Chief Corky McQuiston both withdrew their names.
Upon the announcement of McQuiston’s retirement, the city contracted with David Drown Associates to conduct a search for his replacement.
The council first extended an offer to Fargo Lt. George Vinson, who dropped out citing concerns about salary and shock that he was offered the position in the first place. The council then moved on to the second candidate, Becker Police Chief Brent Baloun. He also cited salary as a concern and took issue with comments from council members while the council was discussing a possible salary for Baloun at its meeting in early January.
When asked earlier this month why the candidates seemed to be expecting more money than the council was willing to give, Gary Weiers, of David Drown Associates, said the advertisement for the police chief position included a full salary range to show candidates what wages would be possible, but he said there was no indication a candidate would start at the top of the range. He also said this kind of negotiation is not uncommon for positions such as this one.
Council members expressed frustration over the methodology and said it should be done differently in the future.
City staff gave the council four options moving forward. First, they could extend a conditional job offer to the next candidate on the list, Victor Siebeneck, an executive officer in the chief’s office at the Salt Lake City Police Department in Utah.
As a second option, the council could ask Chief Corky McQuiston, who officially retired over the weekend, to extend his retirement date. As a third option, they could continue on with Deputy Chief Mike Bestul as acting chief for longer than anticipated and repost the chief position immediately, or, lastly, they could wait to repost the position until after July 2021 or January 2022. City staff recommended the last option, which the council ultimately approved.
The council also directed the police and fire civil service commission to conduct an acting police chief examination process, which the city requires if an employee stays in an acting role for more than 30 days. Included in the motion were regular checks through the end of the year to see how the police department is running with Bestul as acting chief.
Council member Tiffany Stenglein opposed the motion, instead advocating for extending an offer to Siebeneck.
“I don't think we're going to get better or different results doing this again in a year,” Stenglein said. “I think that as flawed as this was, I think we have a candidate who has expressed a great willingness and eagerness for the position, and I think we should move forward with him.”
Council member Mike O’Day said he has spoken to Brainerd officers, who he said came to the general consensus that they would like to see Bestul stick around as active chief for the time being.
“So, having heard what our officers would like to see, it's my opinion that they should get what they want at this point,” he said.
Council member Kevin Stunek said Bestul already knows the inner workings of the police department and had McQuiston’s blessing as acting chief.
Council member Dave Pritschet said he saw both sides of the issue and asked what the check-ins would look like and who would be doing them.
With McQuiston’s retirement and another officer resignation Monday night, the police department is operated with 22 officers — five short of the 27 it is budgeted for.
“I would just like to know, are they scheduled checks? Who’s doing the checks? Are there criteria for the checks?” Pritschet asked. “Because to come up and say, ‘I’m sorry, but we need to make a change,’ that’s going to be kind of a difficult decision.”
Stunek said all of that could be decided moving forward and that Bestul could work with City Administrator Jennifer Bergman and Human Resources Director Kris Schubert to determine times and criteria for the check-ins.
The city is expected to repost the position early next year.
The city paid David Drown Associates about $9,500 for the original search, with funds coming from the police department’s professional services account, which had about $20,000 left in it because staff members were unable to attend off-site training due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sourcewell also picked up part of the bill.