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Akeley police chief under investigation; placed on paid leave

Akeley Police Chief Eric Klein

AKELEY -- Akeley police chief Eric Klein has been placed on administrative leave after it came to light he was allegedly conducting criminal background checks on council members and spouses.

Mayor Jennifer Mitchell announced the decision at the end of this week's council meeting to place Klein on paid leave. She offered no further information on what drove the decision.

The council has scheduled a closed meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19 to meet with city attorney Steve Bolton on the matter.

Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer said the matter is under investigation as to whether he was using the information in "a manner that was rightful or outside his scope of duty."

Homer said accessing criminal history via the court system is legal; it's considered public information. Police are qualified to run specific criminal histories if the information is to be used for law enforcement purposes.

Klein allegedly shared information with members of the public.

Klein did not attend the meeting nor did he submit a monthly police report. His hours were cut to 20 at the end of December as a cost-saving measure for the city.

This follows action by the council earlier this month disallowing citizen "ride-alongs" with Akeley police officers, after an incident in December involving part-time officer Travis Carlson.

Carlson had asked his passenger to drive the patrol car and meet him when he was attempting to apprehend suspects with outstanding warrants. He argued under state law he could direct a civilian to assist him in effecting an arrest.

The council disagreed.

Klein had drafted the procedural directive for ride-alongs and had approved allowing the passenger in the patrol car.

Carlson was placed on administrative leave after the incident. He is no longer employed by the city.