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Commission votes to end employment of longtime Willmar police officer

WILLMAR — The Willmar Police Civil Service Commission voted Monday to terminate the employment of a longtime Willmar police officer who has not returned to duty for medical reasons.

After an hour-long closed session with their attorney, and without any discussion when the meeting reopened, the commission voted by a 3-0 margin to end the employment of Officer Marilee Dorn.

The commission members, Dennis Anfinson, Cassie Akerson and Kathy Schwantes, their attorney, Bill Everett, and Police Chief David Wyffels attended the meeting. Neither Dorn nor any legal counsel on her behalf appeared at the meeting at City Hall.

The Police Commission closed its meeting Monday under the Open Meeting Law provision allowing a board to close for preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an employee.

Wyffels had previously recommended that Dorn’s employment be terminated and a hearing on the matter, called a civil service trial, was conducted Dec. 4 by the commission. The commission had set a Monday deadline for any written arguments from the attorneys involved before it rendered a decision.

After Monday’s meeting, Wyffels declined to comment, only noting that he respected the commission’s decision.

Dorn told the Tribune on Monday afternoon that she will refrain from commenting until she and her attorney have received the official notice from the city.

Dorn had said before the Dec. 4 hearing that any termination or disciplinary action would be handled through the union grievance process. Law Enforcement Labor Services represents the city’s Police Department officers.

Dorn did also say on Monday that she and the city’s insurance carrier have reached a tentative agreement on workers compensation for medical care and temporary disability. Her claims for workers compensation had previously been denied by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust of St. Paul.

Dorn, who served as a police officer for the city since 1982, had been on leave from the department since January. She had surgery in January and February on both wrists to repair damage caused, she said, by numerous workplace injuries and aggravated by the change in demands on her hands and wrists when her duties changed. She was moved to a patrol assignment after the crime prevention specialist position she had held since the mid-1990s was eliminated early in 2012 by budget and staffing changes.

During the Dec. 4 trial, Wyffels outlined that Dorn went on family medical leave initially and then was allowed to use all of her accrued sick, compensation and vacation time, which lasted until August. In September, she asked the Police Commission for an unpaid special leave, which was granted until Oct. 1.

Since Oct. 2, Dorn had not reported for duty, had not informed the department of a date of return to duty and had not been cleared by her doctor to work at the level of the physical demands required of a police officer, Wyffels said during that earlier hearing.

Dorn said in her previous statement to the Tribune that she is still healing from her surgeries.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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