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Crowd fills council room for police chief discussion PDF Print E-mail

Sgt. Ryan Wisnieski is

appointed interim chief

By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican

Imperial’s city council meeting room was the fullest it’s been for a long time Monday as more than 50 people crowded in for discussion of Rob Browning’s recent resignation as police chief.
Council action Monday did not address the resignation, but Imperial’s four council members, President Chad Yaw, J.R. Reeder, Dan Thompson and John Arterburn, did approve Mayor Dwight Coleman’s appointment of Sgt. Ryan Wisnieski as interim chief on a 4-0 vote.
Wisnieski, who has been an officer with the Imperial Police Department since 2004, will serve as interim chief at the same $45,566 annual salary he now receives.
Fourteen people addressed the council, most giving support of Browning, who tendered his resignation Oct. 18. It was effective that same day.
Many at the meeting had questions.
Much of the back-and-forth Monday was about a $300 gift from council member Chad Yaw and wife Amber to Browning, but it appears other factors were involved in his resignation, as well.
Penny Teply, who had asked to be on the agenda, was the first to speak, asking why a $300 gift from council member Yaw to Browning was an issue.
She told the mayor and council it was none of their business.
Mayor Coleman said it was against city policy, and it was his business as head of the police department.
“Anything that happens in that department is a reflection on me.
“There’s probably other things you don’t know about that I don’t want to get into,” Coleman said.
“I’m sad that it came down to this but there’s not much I can do,” he said.
Teply said Browning hasn’t broken any laws “that matter to anybody.”
She said the $300 was a gift from a friend, “and a little hard for us to understand.”
Coleman responded, “I’m sure it is. My job here tonight is to protect Rob’s reputation, so I will not say any of the other circumstances that came to this.”  
City Attorney Josh Wendell said Browning could reapply for the position. It would then have to go through the normal approval process.
In selection of a chief, Cole man, as mayor, offers an appointment to the council, which they must approve on a majority vote.
After Teply’s comments, Coleman opened up the meeting for other comments.
Several offer comments
Julie Hanes, who was kidnapped by her estranged husband and ended up involved in a standoff here in August, was among the 14 who spoke Monday night.
Hanes asked that the council consider giving Browning his job back.
“Rob was risking his life that day, too,” she said.
“So much bad has happened already and for him to lose his position here is sickening,” Hanes said.
She noted that before the incident occurred, Browning was aware of her situation and, on several occasions, stopped to see if she was okay.
Following her ordeal, from which she was eventually freed, three of Imperial’s police officers were given $300 each in extra pay on a 4-0 city council vote Sept. 3. Browning did not receive additional pay in that council action.
It was after that council action that the Yaws sent Browning $300 as a “thank-you” for keeping the community and their family safe, Yaw said in an earlier interview.
That gift apparently became an issue with at least one other council member, Dan Thompson.
Others who spoke at the meeting referred to city policy on the giving of gifts to city employees and appointed officials.
One of those was Jim Shrout, who said he believes there was no illegal transaction regarding the $300 gift because intent is a factor.
“I don’t see a problem. It (policy) states the intent is to influence an officer or city employee. I don’t see that happening; it was a gift from one friend to another,” Shrout said.
He asked the council and mayor if they have ever received gifts.
“I would ask each of you, do you all get Christmas gifts? Do you all get birthday gifts?
“If you do, I would suggest you all resign right now,” Shrout said.
He asked Mayor Coleman if he would reappoint Browning as chief.
“Not at this time I cannot,” Coleman said.
When asked the reasons, Coleman said he couldn’t discuss them.
At least two people asked if Browning was aware of the other items referred to as issues in his work as police chief.    
“There is obviously more to the story that you cannot share with us,” said Shelly Mitchell.
“But does Rob know?” she asked.
Coleman said he didn’t know if Browning was aware of other issues involved.
Wanda Westfahl also asked if other issues have been addressed with Browning, questioning whether personal agendas might be involved.
Cal German said he believes there was nothing “sneaky” or “under the table” with the Yaws’ $300 gift to Browning.
“From listening, it almost sounds like you were looking for a reason,” German said.
Referring to his service on boards in the past, German said “policy is not law.”
“It is a crutch that boards establish to avoid unpleasant circumstances,” he said.
“I suspect you’re not going to find anyone perfect,” he said. “It’s a loss to our community.”
Several other speakers commented on the positive influence of having Browning at Chase County Schools and around the youths of the community. Browning is also a paid music accompanist for the school.


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