As any action the Lincoln City Council may take against a police sergeant remains to be seen, another officer has decided to leave.
Lincoln Police Officer Joseph Jackson submitted his resignation dated Wednesday. He apparently had planned to relinquish his post with hopes for a job in Minot, but the council’s executive session Tuesday regarding Lincoln Police Sgt. Richard Hoffer added speed to his departure.
“My objective was to wait to put in my resignation until I had employment in Minot, where my wife has moved,” Jackson wrote to Lincoln Police Chief Joe Gibbs. “But since seeing how our officers are treated by our city council, I no longer want to be a part of this volatile situation.
“I know that Sgt. Hoffer and you had no part of the choices that certain city council members are making, but my fear is that they may possibly ruin my career and name as they are trying do to Sgt. Hoffer now," he wrote.
Jackson’s last day will be Jan. 24. Gibbs acknowledged he received Jackson’s resignation earlier than anticipated.
“He’s a great officer. He gets along great with everybody,” Gibbs said Wednesday morning.
Jackson works traffic enforcement and criminal investigations. Gibbs said he’s been a part of the Lincoln force for a little over a year.
Lincoln Mayor Gerarld Wise and City Council President Erv Fischer did not return a phone call and email inquiry to each of them regarding Jackson’s resignation on Wednesday.
Gibbs said the Lincoln Police Department is comprised of five sworn officers and Jackson’s position will be filled.
Regarding Hoffer, Gibbs reiterated earlier praise for the police sergeant, whose attorney said the city council would potentially fire at Tuesday's meeting.
“I have no reason to fire him whatsoever,” Gibbs said. “He’s been a great officer for our department, and I’d hate to see him go. He’s had good reviews. He gets along good with the other officers. He does a phenomenal job with drug investigations and criminal interdiction. He’s a great asset to our department.”
In his letter, Jackson credits Hoffer's supervision and training for his progression in law enforcement.
Michael Geiermann, Hoffer’s attorney, said Wednesday morning he hadn’t yet had an opportunity to discuss Tuesday’s executive session with Hoffer. Wise said “no final actions were taken” when the meeting reopened.
“It’s still being analyzed,” Fischer told the room.
It’s unclear why the Lincoln City Council called an executive session, which state law allows for only in narrow situations, typically to discuss litigation or possible litigation.
The Bismarck Tribune has requested an attorney general's opinion to clarify the legality of the closed meeting.
The meeting’s agenda said the executive session was “to receive attorney consultation related to legal actions associated with labor and employment of Sgt. Richard Hoffer.”
Hoffer doesn’t appear to be involved in any current civil or criminal cases in North Dakota. Before Tuesday’s meeting, the state labor department and North Dakota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board had nothing regarding him, the respective offices said.
Lincoln residents Brandon Schock and Jaime Leingang attended the open portions of the meeting and criticized the executive session as improper and “a witch hunt,” respectively.
The next regularly scheduled Lincoln City Council meeting is set for Feb. 8.