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Mayor will decide cop’s fate

September 9, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

ROLFE - Mayor Mike Hayek will give his decision whether or not to fire Police Chief Don Westering at the City Council meeting today at 6:30 p.m.

After hearing comments from the community, the Council voted 4-1 on Aug. 27 to recommend that Westering be dismissed for misconduct.

Allegations against Westering included that he was sometimes unresponsive to complaints, that he lived too far away to respond effectively, that he abused his authority and "put fear into the people," and that he treated people unfairly. Council member Jodi Ham said attitude, professionalism and truthfulness were her three biggest concerns with Westering.

Others at the meeting spoke in support of Westering. Westering said he had done nothing to deserve dismissal and that the whole thing was "a personal attack" against him.

Under Iowa law, the decision to hire or fire the officer is Hayek's.

Mary Allen, of Rolfe, told the Messenger she had about 150 signatures on a petition asking the mayor to follow the council's request.

"If he doesn't do that, we have another petition to remove the mayor from his office," Allen said. "We still need to look up the Iowa law on how to remove a mayor."

However, that petition would carry no legal weight, according to Rolfe City Attorney Greg Stoebe.

"There is no right of recall in Iowa, and there is no right of any removal except at the ballot box. If they don't like the mayor's actions they may take care of that next year at the municipal elections," he said. "There is a right of impeachment in Iowa, but that is only for state officials and only if they commit crimes, so it really doesn't effect municipalities."

Hayek's term expires Dec. 31, 2013.

Pocahontas County Sheriff Bob Lampe said that under Iowa law, an incorporated city must provide law enforcement and fire protection.

"You can do that one of two ways, with law enforcement. You can hire your own 24/7, or you can contract with the sheriff's office," he said.

Lampe attended the Aug. 27 meeting to see what was going on.

"My experience with Don has been excellent," he said in an interview while the meeting was in recess. "I think a few people have got to realize law enforcement officers are human beings, and they can make a mistake like anybody else. Small communities are very hard for one officer to police."

Stoebe said the town could contract with the sheriff's department, or with another town's police department, but it could also rely on the sheriff without a formal contract.

"They can just rely on county law enforcement, but that doesn't mean they'll have a guaranteed numbers of routine patrols, or a guaranteed presence in the community like if they contracted," he said. "Rolfe is right at a breaking point of whether I think can they can afford a police department, they're a little over 600 people. It's a council decision on how they want to go, but they've always determined that they should have a local police department."



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