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Arbitrator upholds deputy's firing in Roseau County

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GRAND FORKS -- A state arbitrator has upheld the firing last year of a Roseau County Sheriff's deputy for misconduct, including sexual harassment, being rude to the public, and lying about it.

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Chad Maurstad had worked for the department for 15 years when he was fired Dec. 11 last year, said Chief Deputy Terry Bandemer on Monday.

Thomas Yeager, the arbitrator, issued a decision Friday upholding the county's firing of Maurstad.

"The first complaint was investigated in July 2008," Bandemer said. Information about other complaints came out during that investigation.

The misconduct violated Roseau County policies including incidents with three females and entail sexual harassment, conduct unbecoming an officer, knowingly making a false accusation of a criminal offense, being rude and overbearing to members of the public and insubordination.

No criminal charges

No criminal charges have been filed against Maurstad over the complaints, Bandemer said.

Maurstad filed a grievance after being fired and a five-day hearing was held this spring before Yeager, with attorneys and witnesses for both sides.

Yeager's decision, signed last week and released Monday by the Sheriff's Office, said, "The charges against Maurstad that have been proven amount to egregious offenses for a law enforcement officer. The incidents with three females amounted to serious misconduct, but even more serious was Maurstad's lack of truthfulness on several occasions in order to cover up what he obviously recognized as misconduct on his part."

The misconduct involved four incidents, Yeager said.

They came to light after an incident the night of July 5, 2008, when Maurstad seized a vehicle that had been driven by a woman arrested for drunk driving by Maurstad's wife, Sgt. Slyvia Maurstad, who is a trooper in the Minnesota State Patrol.

The Maurstads sometimes work the same shift on different patrols in Roseau County. In this case, Chad Maurstad was lending his wife, who was busy booking the woman, a helping hand in seizing the woman's vehicle because she had prior drunken driving convictions.

The incident led to a confrontation between Chad Maurstad and people in possession of the vehicle, who said Maurstad used excessive force and was rude, arrogant and pushy with them in taking the vehicle, which he had towed.

When complaints about that incident came to Roseau County officials, they asked Thief River Falls Police Chief Kim Murphy to come in as an outside investigator to check it out. In his investigation, Murphy learned of complaints by three women that Maurstad had engaged them in inappropriate and sexually harassing talk while he was on duty.

Sexual comments

A woman who worked in a Roseau diner said Maurstad, while eating a meal, made repeated comments of a sexual nature that upset the woman enough that she went home in tears and told her family about it. She later testified at the hearing.

Two women studying criminal justice at Northland Community and Technical College complained of similar sexual talk from the deputy.

One, who was 20 at the time, rode along with Maurstad as a minor to do alcohol compliance checks on bars and restaurants on Dec. 8, 2007. During the ride, she testified that Maurstad questioned her on sexual topics. "They made me feel very uncomfortable and that it was very unprofessional and inappropriate of him to ask these questions," the woman wrote in a complaint she filed in September 2008 with Roseau County. "I felt really angry that I didn't say anything to him at the time but I didn't know how to. I felt intimidated and tried to tell myself I was overreacting."

The other Northland student said she did a ride-along with Maurstad in spring 2008 as part of her course of study. She testified during Maurstad's hearing that Maurstad talked about sexual things with her.

The woman said she told friends and family about how uncomfortable Maurstad's talk made her, and that he was "a creep." She was reluctant at first to file a formal complaint with the county because she feared retaliation, especially if she tried to get a job in law enforcement, the woman said. She did file a formal complaint.

During the investigation of Maurstad over the past year, he lied to various investigators about his actions, Yeager determined, agreeing with Sheriff Jule Hanson's reasoning for firing him.

Not lying

Maurstad's attorney, during the hearing, argued that he wasn't lying, but recollecting incidents to the best of his knowledge and was hampered by incomplete information given to him in the investigation.

Maurstad's attorney, speaking on his behalf on the part of his union in filing the grievance last year, said Maurstad wasn't given proper notice of the complaints, or of their nature. The sexual talk Maurstad acknowledged having with two of the women was consensual and mutual with adult women and did not qualify as harassment, the union's representative argued, according to Yeager's report.

A woman at Maurstad's home said he was not home Monday and she declined to comment.

Maurstad is the son of former longtime sheriff of Marshall County, Herb Maurstad.

Chad Maurstad previously worked as a police officer in Warren, Minn.

Since Maurstad was fired, the Roseau County Sheriff's Office has 12 full-time officers, including Sheriff Hanson, and three part-time officers and two part-time bailiffs, Bandemer said.

It's up to the county commission whether a new deputy is hired to replace Maurstad, Bandemer said.

Maurstad received no severance pay, only the sick-time and vacation time he was owed, Bandemer said.

Maurstad has been working part-time for the Greenbush, Minn., Police Department, Yeager said in his report.

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