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Belfield cop fired by city: Council, officials tight-lipped on reasoning

A Belfield police officer has been fired, but city officials and his supervisor are not giving a reason for the dismissal.

Sgt. Travis Carlson was terminated May 29, Mayor Leo Schneider said. Belfield City Council members made the decision official during a meeting on Monday, but a portion was closed to the public while council members discussed the matter.

Schneider, police Chief Nicky Barnhard and city attorney Sandra Kuntz all declined to comment further on the termination. When asked by The Press for any written reasons for the firing, city auditor Cindy Ewoniuk said she also could not comment on the matter.

Schneider told The Press the meeting was closed because of “stuff in that that the public don’t need to know about.”

Police officers are paid with public, taxpayer money. A board may close a part of the meeting to discuss a matter with an attorney regarding a pending or reasonably predictable lawsuit, according to the North Dakota Century Code. Public employee salary and job performance information is open, but certain personal information may be exempt or confidential.

Open meeting and records laws apply to all public entities.

Records of why Carlson was fired are public record, if there are any, North Dakota Newspaper Association attorney Jack McDonald wrote in an email.

“The mayor doesn’t have to tell you, but you can see any personal records,” McDonald wrote. “However, sometimes public boards are very cagey about these firings and there are no written documents, and the public may have no way to find out the reason.”

McDonald added if the executive session was only to discuss his firing, then it was not a legal executive session.

Carlson was also terminated from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office right before he started work for Belfield in spring 2013. The Dunn County termination report listed insubordination as the reason.