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City council, police chief agree on terms of separation agreement

The Park Rapids City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to accept a retirement letter submitted by Chief of Police Terry Eilers, at the same time approving the terms of a separation and release agreement.

The chief submitted the letter to the city on June 6 with the intent to retire effective July 1. The council discussed the letter in a closed session June 14 and acted on the matter at the Tuesday, June 28 meeting.

The city and chief negotiated the separation and release agreement and under the terms Eilers will receive two months’ pay totaling $11,823 following his effective retirement date of July 1.

Under the agreement and resolution passed by the council, Eilers is also entitled to "all accumulated employee benefits as per the personnel policies of the City of Park Rapids in exchange for his resignation and retirement and waiver and release of claims against the city."

The $11,823 is wages only before taxes for the months of July and August.

The motion to accept the separation and release agreement carried, 5-0, without discussion.

Chief Eilers was not present at the closed session June 14 nor the regular council meeting June 28.

The council then approved entering into an agreement with independent contractor Harlan Johnson to operate at the same capacity as the chief of police for three months. Johnson is a retired police chief and previous executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.

Johnson will be compensated $5,000 per month, based on an average of 40 hours per week. He recently moved to the Park Rapids area and is the former chief of police for the Deephaven Police Department in Hennepin County.

The agreement states Johnson will not be the chief of police but will have the same authority and responsibilities as the police chief for a period of July 1 through Sept. 30. Johnson’s role as a consultant is described in part to keep the department operational and running smoothly, and also assist the city with the next step of what needs to be done to hire a new police chief.

"The purpose outlined in this agreement is to help take his impressive qualifications and help us deal with the situation we have before us," city administrator John McKinney explained.

City staff will pursue filling the position with a new full-time chief of police.

"I would like to see this position is not only filled but the start date is Sept. 1 so we have the ability to have Harlan here for a month with our new chief," said council member Erika Randall.

The council voted unanimously to enter into the agreement with Johnson.

"I want to express my appreciation for Terry’s work for the 13 years he’s been here. I’m glad I worked with him, he did a good job," McKinney said.