Mar-Mac police chief resigns, leaving department with no certified officers

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Jason Bogdonovich

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

At a special meeting Aug. 21, the Mar-Mac Unified Police Commission accepted the resignation of police chief Jason Bogdonovich, who had served in the position for nearly five years. 

Although Bogdonovich’s letter tendered his resignation effective Friday, Aug. 31, the commission opted to accept the resignation effective immediately.

Bogdonovich previously considered stepping down in February, citing conflicts with a member of the police commission, but was later convinced to stay.

His departure now left the department with two full-time officers, Steve Finney and Marcus Ploessl, neither of whom are yet certified.

Commissioner Pam Brodie-Fitzgerald said she and fellow commissioner Eleanor Soulli, who both represent Marquette, planned to recommend to their city council that the unified district be disbanded after the current fiscal year ends on June 30, 2019. With separate departments or coverage, she claimed the cities could save money and officers could better focus on their own communities.

But the rest of the commission did not back the idea. Robyn Denning was concerned the threat would even deter potential candidates from applying for the chief position. Marquette mayor Steve Weipert, who is not part of the commission but attended the meeting, added that relying solely on the sheriff’s office to patrol the communities would not provide residents with the coverage and response times they’ve come to expect.

At the time of last week’s meeting, the commission hoped Finney and Ploessl could carry the department’s work load until a new chief could be hired. Since then, however, Finney again failed his certification test, exhausting the number of times he can take the test until next year.

“I understand that means he would have to go back to reserve status,” said Denning at another special meeting, held Aug. 27.

Finney said he would be willing to serve in that capacity, as long as it fits into his schedule when he finds another job outside law enforcement.

“I understand you can’t wait another year for me to be able to qualify,” he said. “I’m willing to stay on as much as I can. I want to stay here. I want to stay invested in the job and the community.”

Reserves, though, must be overseen by a certified officer. Without a certified officer within the department, the commission determined Finney cannot even serve in that role. No one from the county would be able to supervise, either. 

“You have no choice but to terminate,” Finney said. “Down the road, you could always rehire me.”

The commission approved Finney’s termination, effective Friday, Aug. 31.

As for Ploessl, who was hired this spring, the commission approved setting him up to take the certification test as soon as possible. 

Ads for the police chief position will run for the next two weeks, but the commission said several people have already shown interest. They agreed to set the starting wage at a minimum of $23.81 per hour, plus benefits, matching what Bogdonovich was receiving at the time he left.

The commission’s next regular meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 12, and members hoped they could select a candidate at that time.

Once someone is selected, Denning said the candidate will need to go through a series of tests and certifications. No one with the department is currently qualified to request and administer those tests, but he said former secretary/treasurer Kris Eulberg is still registered. He recommended that the commission have her coordinate and administer the testing, a plan the commission approved.

While a new police chief is being hired, commission chair Jason Echard wondered if the full-time officer position should also be filled.

“We can’t afford to get back into this position again,” he said.

The commission agreed that needs to be addressed, but made no official move to advertise for the position yet.

In the meantime, said Denning, the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office will be contacted to see how its deputies can help cover Marquette and McGregor.

“[Sheriff Mike Tschirgi] said he would help out as much as he could,” Echard noted.

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