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Hubbard County K-9 officer placed on leave

Hubbard County K-9 officer Jeremiah Johnson scoops spaghetti sauce at a fundraiser this winter for his canine partner Vulcan. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Hubbard County's K-9 officer has been placed on administrative leave.

The Hubbard County Board of Commissioners met behind closed doors Wednesday to decide Jeremiah Johnson's future in the department. No details were released at the time.

County officials have been tight-lipped about the matter, as they are with personnel issues.

Johnson, 33, and a jailer/disatcher are currently under investigation by the Becker County Sheriff's Department for some unspecified financial reasons. No administrative action against the dispatcher has been taken.

"I can verify that yes, we are investigating a situation involving Hubbard County," said Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon.

"We had a case referred to us due to a conflict, and it actually stemmed with a Becker County resident" who filed the complaint, Gordon said, "At this time, I believe the case is at review with the County Attorney's office so there should be (information) forthcoming very soon."

County Attorney Don Dearstyne said he wouldn't comment on the case at the present time.

Hubbard County Coordinator Deb Thompson said she couldn't confirm or deny that Johnson had been placed on leave.

Sheriff Cory Aukes also declined to comment except to say it's been a difficult situation that is "part of the job."

Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers said, "it's been about two weeks" since Johnson was placed on leave.

During the course of the Becker County investigation, it was discovered that Johnson had a minor criminal conviction in 1998 for possession of stolen property in Beltrami County.

That is a matter of public record. It is unclear if Johnson disclosed this information to Hubbard County when he was hired, and applications for public employment are considered confidential under the Data Privacy Act.

Johnson can hold a Peace Officers Standards and Training license and certification, however, from the state board that polices the police. Felony convictions, crimes of deception and moral turpitude are barriers to licensure, said Paul Monteen of the Minnesota POST Board.

But Dearstyne said criminal records checks will now be performed on all law enforcement and jail personnel in Hubbard County. Although officers can have criminal records, Dearstyne said it could present embarrassing situations if they are called to testify in criminal cases.

Johnson has been with the department five years. He is the keeper of Vulcan, a German shepherd obtained from the Czech Republic that is being trained for a number of types of apprehension.

The K-9 program has garnered much public support and contributions. This winter a spaghetti fundraiser for Vulcan raised $4,000 for the pro-gram.

Johnson and Vulcan have been very popular at public events.

Stay tuned for the Park Rapids Enterprise for updates on this story.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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