HARTINGTON — Over two dozen people showed up at Monday’s special City Council meeting called to discuss the fate of Hartington Police Chief Casey Nieman.
The hour-long meeting was recorded by Marcia Mahon, a free-lance Court Reporter from South Sioux City.
A statement was read stating Nieman had been terminated due to a tape recorder being found after a motion had been made to go into Executive Session at the end of a Hartington City Council meeting April 23.
Arguments between Neiman’s attorney, Ed Pohren, Omaha, and City Attorney Steven Pier erupted several times during the meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Pohren asked Council members to reinstate Nieman as Police Chief and reimburse him for any salary that he would be owed.
Pohren voiced an objection to City Council members taking any action at the end of Monday’s meeting regarding Nieman’s termination.
Board members tabled taking any action until the May 29 City Council meeting.
The meeting was confrontational from the start.
Pier objected when Pohren started quizzing City Council members and Mayor Brad Pietz on their knowledge regarding the rules dealing with closed sessions.
“If you think the city is improperly going into closed sessions then the county attorney is the one you need to talk to,” Pier said.
Pohren asked several questions on how and when the action on the termination was done:
“When was the action taken that led to the Mayor signing a memorandum to terminate Nieman on April 27?” he asked.
“Did the City Council have pre-meetings?” he asked.
“If board members talk about a city employee in a closed session does the employee have to be notified ahead of time?” he asked.
Pier objected to the line of questioning and asked Pohren to limit his questions to the incident with the tape recorder.
“This meeting is about a tape recorder being left in a closed session,” Pier said.
Pohren did not agree with Pier’s directive.
“You do not have the right to tell us what questions we can ask or not ask,” Pohren retorted.
Councilman Tim Burbach was asked to give a statement on what he saw and found after a motion had been made for the Council members to go into closed session toward the end of the April 23 City Council meeting.
Burbach reported he saw Nieman stand up and then place two books in the chair next to the chair he had been sitting in during the meeting.
“I thought that was odd. When I went over to shut the door, I walked over and pulled the books back and a tape recorder had been placed down in the chair. The tape recorder was running,” Burbach said.
According to Burbach, he then walked across the hall where Nieman was sitting at his desk and put the tape recorder on his desk and said,” Casey, what is this?”
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