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Telling the full story means knowing the whole story

I beg, plead and demand information from sources, and that can take time to pay off.

After Deadline - Brian Todd column sig

The world doesn't often surprise me.

In 20-plus years as a journalist, I've seen a lot of weird things, and heard a lot of odd statements from folks. That's part and parcel of conducting interviews with a vast cross-section of humanity.

So it's not every day something amazes me.

That's Amazing, Folks

When I interviewed Red Wing Mayor Mike Wilson concerning the firing of Police Chief Roger Pohlman, I heard something that kind of shocked me.

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First, let me back up a second. Before talking to Wilson, I was talking with another person. A person I won't name. This person told me about a complaint made against Pohlman in late 2018 that the city hired an outside investigator to look into to try judging the veracity of the complaint.
The complaint and the investigation, it seems, once delivered to the city council, Pohlman and a few others in 2019 was then confiscated by the city.

You read that right. After the report was handed out, Council member Dean Hove demanded – and City Administrator Kay Kuhlmann executed that demand – that all copies of the report be returned to the city.

Why? Well, that's complicated, and I suppose I could understand their reason. Sort of.

But here's the weird part. My unnamed person sent me copies of the super-secret report. Later when I was talking to Wilson I mentioned the complaint and investigation report, and Wilson told me he was not able to get a copy of it.

See, in the time between Pohlman being put on paid leave on Feb. 8 and being fired on Feb. 19, Wilson, who was only elected last November, was hoping to learn all he could about Pohlman's performance. But when he asked for the complaint and report about which he'd heard rumors, he was told no. No, Mr. Mayor, you can't see this relevant piece of information.

Even as I spoke to him, Wilson seemed bemused by this.

"I tried to get that information too," Wilson said. "I was told by Kay the city attorney said that information wasn’t available to me."

Freedom of Information

Here's the thing: If you ask the right people, you'll find what you need to know. I found someone who didn't mind passing along the super-secret report. For a city that had fired Pohlman, I can see why. The report basically debunks the complaint against Pohlman, then goes on to praise his honesty and integrity.

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Two weeks ago, I sent a request to the city of Red Wing asking for more information on this subject. Basically, I'm still waiting. Some of the complaints against Pohlman have to do with his attitude toward city council members' suggestions about law enforcement and the timeliness of his responses to their emails.

I'd like to see how the actual emails and the complaints against Pohlman match up. After all, folks are talking about recalling six members of the city council, so I'm guessing there's a big contingent of residents who aren't happy the chief was fired.

I'm still digging for information, because people want answers, and the only way I can find them is to know a lot of information.

Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.

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Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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