Residents launch campaign to recall entire Red Wing City Council over firing of police chief

If there’s controversy these days involving law enforcement, it’s usually the cops on the defensive. But numerous riled up Red Wing residents are coming to the aid of recently fired former Police Chief Roger Pohlman, aiming to recall and remove all seven city council members over the handling of his abrupt dismissal.

The Recall City Hall Committee told the Post-Bulletin dozens of members will be out collecting enough signatures from citizens to force a recall election.

George Hintz, who is helping to run the recall effort across the city, said he’s confident the group will be able to collect, for each council member, more than enough signatures to advance the recall…

Hintz said that by Tuesday evening the group will have 60 volunteers trained for canvassing, with another 20 or so to be trained Thursday night.

“I feel that we can knock on the majority of the doors and reach our objective,” Hintz said. “Some of the volunteers are coming to homes where no one is home. After the first pass, we’ll come back to the homes where they’ve had no contact.”

Questions surround the city’s reasons for firing Pohlman and for holding a closed meeting to do it.

Officially, the city has stated Pohlman was fired due to lack of trust by members of the city council, slow responses to emails or phone calls, and slow action on instituting new police policies the council hoped to see.

The lone city councilor to vote against Pohlman’s firing shares many of the concerns of citizens over the chief’s removal.

“I voted no,” Beise said. “As a person who’s hired and fired, and I look at the evidence that’s there, I don’t know why you’d fire the man.”

Beise said there was no documentation in his file to support firing Pohlman.

“There’s something wrong with this whole scenario, and I hope it comes out,” Beise said. He added that after a name-clearing hearing held Wednesday, “I was hoping we’d be able to speak after that, even if it was just to say thank you, but they didn’t let us.”

Nevertheless, even Beise faces a recall drive over his participation in the meeting.

Rich Lockwood walked down the street to catch up with the canvassing couple. After a brief discussion, he signed the petitions to recall Hove and Stinson. While the recall is technically about the malfeasance of closing what allegedly should have been an open meeting, Lockwood said that is simply part of a bigger problem with the city council.

“The biggest issue is the removal of a good civil steward to try to appease the angry mob,” Lockwood said.

The city charter requires the signatures of more than 20 percent of the total voters in the last election in each ward in order to force a recall. It’s unclear whether any Minnesota city has attempted to remove and replace all of their elected representatives on the city council. But as word spreads you can be sure citizens in other communities will be watching.