Addressing the Nisswa City Council Wednesday, Sept. 16, from the public podium rather than his mayor’s seat, Fred Heidmann spoke at length to level misconduct allegations against the city’s police department and claim disrespectful behavior by three longtime city employees.
Heidmann’s comments came at the council’s regular meeting and included allegations that Police Chief Craig Taylor has threatened Heidmann and others; that two of four women cried when sharing their encounters with Taylor; that five marriages were destroyed by poor police conduct; that an officer allegedly had sex with a mentally challenged woman; that a husband allegedly came home, found an officer with his wife and was arrested when he became upset; and that this year it was brought to the council’s attention that an officer or officers may have been having sex with a woman or women at city hall and the council failed to act on it.
“I’m sick of it. I am darn sick of it. We are here as an elected body to do everything we can to make this city better, to see that our citizens are protected, that we have great employees and manage employees and the budget to the best of our ability,” Heidmann said, concluding by saying the police department “needs investigation by an outside party to get to the bottom of this.”
At the meeting, John Ryan — who is running against Heidmann for mayor — was the only council member to address the mayor’s comments.
“As a member of the personnel committee, I don’t recall us meeting and discussing any of those (allegations),” Ryan said, noting he saw no documentation. “I was caught off guard and kind of surprised. It was news to me.”
Taylor was not present at the Sept. 16 meeting. Reached by phone Thursday, Sept. 17, he chose not to comment.
The council didn’t take any action in response to Heidmann’s statements, and the council meeting then proceeded as usual.
“No actions so we’ll just move on,” Heidmann said. “That’s interesting.”
The mayor’s comments came after he was arrested Aug. 29 under probable cause for disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process while two officers — one from Pequot Lakes and one from Nisswa — were conducting a traffic stop on a third party on Highway 371, south of Nisswa. At a subsequent special city council meeting Sept. 4 to address the incident, the council asked the mayor to resign, removed him from city committees and censured him. Heidmann did not attend that meeting on advice from his attorney.
“So the council knows, I have no intention of resigning and I do intend to keep on running for mayor for the next two years,” Heidmann said Sept. 16.
Police body-camera footage from the Aug. 29 incident showed Heidmann swearing at officers.
“You guys are just as bad as the cops in Minneapolis” and “I’m the mayor of this (expletive) town,” were among the statements Heidmann made to the officers in video footage. Heidmann was repeatedly asked to go to a safer area to record the traffic stop. In the profanity laced video, Heidmann stated, “Don’t you guys have something better to do? … Go patrol the (expletive) streets,” and “You guys aren’t qualified to be out here on the highway.” He called the officers “(expletive) dinks” and said they were a “(expletive) disgrace.”
In a written statement, after the incident, Heidmann said he saw the activity up the street from his business while walking his dog and was concerned by what he saw, so he began recording the incident as he went to check out what was taking place. Heidmann said he stood there wondering what impression this was making with the hundreds of vacationing families going by seeing what appeared to be tourists having their goods rifled through.
In starting his statement at Wednesday’s council meeting, Heidmann said he wanted to address some serious concerns he had.
“I believe tonight has the ability to become a defining moment of change and positive things to come. But it will be hard at first,” he said.
After saying he wanted to clarify that contrary to social media, he is a huge supporter of good law enforcement and police, Heidmann said he has received an outpouring of support over the past two weeks.
Regarding his allegations, Heidmann said he and the women didn’t file charges against the police chief because he was told since there were no witnesses, there was no case; it was one person’s word against another’s.
The mayor claimed the city has had staff problems for the past 10 years or more and that as a council person and then mayor he has seen constant disrespect by the police chief, public works director (Tom Blomer) and finance person (Maggi Wentler).
Heidmann never used employees’ names, only their positions. He claimed these employees bullied and harassed to the point another long-term employee left.
“The council knew and failed to do anything,” he said, targeting council members Gary Johnson, Don Jacobson and Ryan while acknowledging that council member Mike Hoff was not on the council then.
He claimed these three employees vehemently opposed hiring a city administrator and they still refuse to accept the new system and authority, and again the entire council refuses to do anything about it.
“The council needs to seek professional advice about this and remedy this immediately or the city stands to lose the good staff it has recently hired,” Heidmann said.
Heidmann said two weeks after he opposed an officer’s promotion to sergeant, he was pulled over for not wearing his seat belt. He said while sitting at a Highway 371 intersection with a lot of oncoming traffic, he took his seat belt off to unclip his cellphone, which was jabbing him in the hip.
“The police sit on that highway like hawks every single day. They see me many times every day going north and south. They know by matter of fact and pattern I always have my seat belt on,” he said, noting he explained why he momentarily took the seat belt off but he got a ticket anyway and the officer “smirked” all the way back to his squad car.
He demanded an investigation into all the alleged matters, saying citizens need to know they can trust the police department, and an end to unprofessional behavior by employees.
“And people wonder why I got upset when police were shaking down vacationers on our highway, which isn’t even ours to patrol,” he said of the Aug. 29 incident, adding patrolling the highway is the job of state police or possibly the county.
He acknowledged he probably could have done something differently during the Aug. 29 incident with police, but said: “My heart, my passion is for the city of Nisswa — and at times that passion comes out pretty strong. At least I have the gonads to stand up and call what I'm seeing as wrong.”