In an unprecedented vote, members of the Newell City Council deadlocked on two separate motions concerning the fate of former Newell Police Officer Phil Queen in a special meeting Thursday night.
The first motion by Elaine Knudson to uphold the termination of Queen by Police Chief Roger Hakeman ended in a 2-2 tie, as Councilman Stan Henrich abstained from the vote.
The second motion by Mark Puhrmann to reverse the termination and reinstate Queen to his former post resulted in the same 2-2 stalemate, as Henrich again abstained.
The 90-minute meeting was sparked by the dismissal of Queen from his duties as a police officer Aug. 29 by Hakeman, and the chief outlined four categories which served as reasons for the termination.
Hakeman said Queen was not willing to accept constructive criticism, was not familiar with the proper laws of search and seizure, was not showing good judgment in his work, and was not proving himself in his duties, including paperwork.
He also told the overflow crowd of over 50 that failure to accurately fill out paperwork pertaining to court cases helped seal Queen's fate.
"The problem with the report writing alone is insurmountable," Hakeman said. "That alone is significant, because around 70 percent of the work of a police officer deals with paperwork. If you can't write a report, then you can't be a police officer."
Queen's attorney, Dan Connell, declared his client had done nothing wrong, and urged the council to retain Queen.
"When you look at Mr. Queen's record, it's very good," Connell said. "My concern is that there isn't anything in his personal file to justify his termination. Phil has proved himself to the city, he deserves better and he should be reinstated."
Audience members also learned Newell may lose a police officer even if Queen is reinstated.
Hakeman said if Queen receives his job back, he may resign from his position as police chief.
"I've taken a lot of flak for this over the past two weeks and I don't think it's deserved," Hakeman said. "If he is reinstated, there is the possibility that I would resign."
Due to the two deadlocked votes, Newell City Attorney Gary Armstrong said he would research prior case law to determine if similar situations had ever occurred, and would then inform council members of the proper action to take from his findings.