Oliver loses at Appeals Board

Bison Blinds

“It’s a disappointment. The whole department went against me … it’s kind of stressful it didn’t go in my favor but I have the support of citizens and my family. I’m going to put in applications and go somewhere different.”

With that comment, the ten-year career of Mike Oliver with the Luther Police Department ended. An Appeals Board voted unanimously to accept his termination during a hearing Wednesday night.

The saga over Oliver’s termination began in November. Although a reason has never been given to the public, Police Chief David Randall spoke to the media after the nearly two-hour meeting, but still didn’t fully disclose the grounds for dismissal.

“I never take any pride and joy in letting anybody go. He was a liked officer here in Luther, but there are just some things you can’t overlook, and it just caught up to him,” said Randall.

“The biggest thing that I had was integrity. If you lie about one thing, what else are you going to lie about? You can’t pick apart the truth but if you tell a lie you gotta keep covering up and it’s going to catch up to you,” said the chief who began work fulltime as the police chief two weeks before he dated Oliver’s termination letter.

Oliver shared that letter with The Luther Register following the hearing. The letter gives a few clues about the firing, but requires followup. The letter was dated November 14, the same day of the Town Board meeting in which Oliver and Randall together addressed the board. Oliver said he was given the letter the next morning and shortly after that,  The Luther Register reported the news. Incidentally, later Oliver was apparently put on administrative leave with pay, and then was notified of his termination later in December prior to the Appeals Board meeting January 3, 2018.  

November 14

To: Mayor Jenni White
From: Chief David Randall
Reason: Termination of Michael Oliver

This termination is for good of the service as per personnel, policies and procedures of the Town of Luther that were violated by your actions.

Insubordination. Dep Chief Class gave a reasonable order to wait on any new contracts to be initiated until a new chief was in place. You willingly and knowingly ignored that order putting in place a new towing company in a rotation without higher authorization.

Deputy Chief Class inquired if you removed any files from the personnel files due an inspection that was performed by CLEET investigators. It was learned that several items from the files that were previously in personnel files were now missing. You completed and endorsed a sworn statement stating you did not remove files. Statements were obtained from others stating that you did in fact tuner the personnel files on more than one occasion.

On another incident, you were asked by supervision to obtain locks to secure property and evidence you advised supervision that you may the request for the locks through the utility clerk. It was learned that no request was made to that office.

Under employee social media guidelines, you knowingly and willingly posted information breaking the trust of the board posting business-related materials on social media casting an undesirable light upon the board and its members. This is also a violation of the rules of conduct of the Luther Police Department (rules of conduct … officers shall refrain from gossip, spreading rumors or discussing departmental business with any person that does not have a need to know).

Under the rules of conduct, this office has received numerous complaints in reference to professional conduct that does not reflect favorably on this department creating hostile work environment from subordinates. 

Under rules of conduct – officers will be courteous to the public while handling calls for service. They should not lose their tempers, use profanity or argue. On several occasions you were witnessed in violations of this policy where you displayed a lack of courtesy and tax and creating mistrust by the public and other officers.

Due to the above incidents an seeing the questionable issues with integrity and reflecting adversely upon the town of luther and the Luther Police Department effective November 14, 2017, Michael Oliver, this will be your last day of employment with the Town of Luther.

Oliver refuted many of the allegations against him. “They said that I failed to follow orders. But in all of my 11 years as a law enforcement officer, I’ve never failed to follow an order … The rest of the stuff was just petty. Anywhere from saying I stole stuff, that I made copies of keys and stuff like that.” Oliver denied the allegations. 

Back when former Police Chief Marcus Thurman resigned lsat August, Oliver, who was a sergeant at the time, was being considered to be interim chief. However, other officers protested that choice, and Deputy Chief Class was named the in between chief until Randall was hired.

The Appeals Board, long dormant, had members appointed in a special Town Board meeting on November 28. The process to name such a board, according to state law was outlined partially in this article. 

At the November 28 meeting, the five members appointed included Mayor Jenni White, Officer Justin Blackwell, Officer Tony Walker, Vice Mayor Jason Roach and local chiropractor Dr. Jeff Schwarzmeier.

However, Officer Blackwell apparently declined to serve on the appeals panel. We learned for the first time at the Wednesday night meeting that at some point, Mayor White appointed former police chief David Carpenter to the position.

That appointment of Carpenter almost shut down the proceeding.Town Attorney Ray Vincent questioned whether the appointment was done correctly since it wasn’t approved by the Board of Trustees. While Vincent did not question Carpenter’s qualifications to serve on the panel, others seemed to agree with Vincent’s legal opinion that the way Carpenter was appointed did not lean toward transparency or precedent since the full board approved the other members. State law was consulted and Mayor White said she discussed the action with the Town’s insurance attorney, but did not run it by Vincent. He is hired by the Town to handle legal matters, is available for consultation and attends most meetings. He said he learned of Carpenter’s appointment to the board when he arrived at the meeting.

After a tense few minutes in which the meeting was almost canceled, Vincent asked Oliver whether he objected to the makeup of the panel, and Oliver said, for the record, that he accepted the board.

The meeting then began. Although Oliver had indicated he wanted the proceeding to be in public, he agreed to go into executive session. Oliver stayed in the closed-door proceeding along with the police chief, deputy police chief, the appeals board, town attorney and town clerk.

The session lasted for more than one hour and twenty minutes. Then the five-member board deliberated for about 30 minutes.

Back in open session, the Appeals Board accepted the evidence and recording of the meeting to the record. The Luther Register has requested a copy of the file and the recording. Then the Board unanimously accepted the firing of Oliver.

You can watch the broadcast of both parts of the meeting here.

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  1. I saw what he was being charged with. It’s all hear say. He said she said. It’s definitely not grounds for termination. I believe the new police chief simply felt threatened by officer Oliver’s popularity with the citizens. I don’t feel the new police chief is going to be good for our small town and I hope we find a better replacement for him.

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