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Sheriff candidate defends his record

Marty Kelly

The Marty Kelly portrayed on the campaign trail is a mentor to young police officers, the consoler of frightened children and a Red Wing police officer who longs to lead.

A more complex and sometimes contradictory picture emerges from his disciplinary file. He seemingly doesn't follow the regulations when they are inconvenient or uncomfortable for him. He also hesitates to hold accountable those officers whom he likes—in part because he wants to help them.

"That sounds like Marty," is officers' and deputies' standard reply when asked about the incidents in his file. Some respond with tolerance—"It's just his way"—and others with distaste—"He doesn't get it." Many then have a similar story to share.

Kelly says that six sheets of paper don't fairly represent his 30-year career. What about the ream of commendations or letters of thanks in the file, he said. He's saved lives, delivered a baby.

"I love my job," he said.

Placed on leave

Kelly was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday, Oct. 6, 2018. Five days later, he says he still doesn't know why because City Hall has 30 days to let him know.

The Republican Eagle filed data requests on disciplinary actions for all the three sheriff candidates this summer and those came back around primary election day. Such data for any government employee is public under Minnesota Statute 13.43.

Goodhue County Patrol Commander Paul Gielau, the other candidate on the Nov. 6 ballot, has faced no disciplinary action in his 33-year career. Josh Stehr, who lost in the primary election, also has no record.

Gielau preferred not to comment about Kelly's record or leave.

"This is tough for everybody. This whole thing," Gielau said. The police and sheriff's departments are both housed in the LEC.

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Police Chief Roger Pohlman could not speak to the disciplinary actions taken beyond Kelly's personnel documents approved for release under state law and by legal counsel. He did issue a general statement.

"The Red Wing Police Department is a professional agency that expects to uphold the public trust through maintenance of standards and policies — it doesn't matter who the employee is," Pohlman said. "We take corrective action not to punish but to elevate the performance of each officer and the agency."

Here is what Kelly's disciplinary record from the last five years as well as recent interviews with law enforcement reveal.

January 2013

On Jan. 29, 2013, Kelly received a written reprimand for two instances two days apart of statements unbecoming of a supervisor.

In the first, Kelly admitted and his direct reports confirmed he made inappropriate remarks during a shift meeting concerning events that occurred off duty. The reprimand signed by the chief doesn't cite the specific words but states that Kelly called his comments "locker room talk" and admitted that he likes to get "a rise out of the guys."

Kelly said on Tuesday that he said something inappropriate about his wife and Pohlman, when he learned of it, didn't like it.

"It was banter back and forth between everyone," Kelly said.

In the second instance addressed in the January 2013 reprimand, Kelly threatened and belittled an officer in front of the entire shift during a training session.

Kelly recalls it was over seating arrangements.

"I said, 'Sometimes I think I feel like punching you in the throat,'" Kelly said Tuesday.

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That wasn't the first time Kelly threatened a fellow officer, documents show. He received oral counseling in October 2012 from former Police Chief Tim Sletten after making inappropriate comments over the police radio. Kelly threatened to punch an officer in the face.

Current and retired officers said Kelly has a longtime record of engaging in shock talk and tough language.

Officers, deputies and Goodhue County Law Enforcement Center staff spoke on background; they declined to be identified, they said, because they have to work with him.

September 2014

Kelly also has been known to bend the rules when his officers have personal issues.

In September 2014, an officer was accused of unauthorized use of a marked squad car; he was dropping off a child at school while on duty.

Kelly was the officer's supervisor. A disciplinary letter dated Oct. 7, 2014, states that Kelly knew about the practice.

"It happened all the time," Kelly said.

He discussed the issue at the time with Kay Kuhlmann, the city administrator, who told him she hadn't known officers were doing this. It violated city and department policies.

"Well it was, and I'm sorry that I happened to bear the brunt of it," Kelly said.

The officer was going through a divorce. Kelly said in the report that did not seem like a big deal, that everyone was doing it and "It did not seem like a battle worth fighting."

Kelly was reprimanded for violating two city policies and two police department general orders.

One primary reason for the protocol is that an officer is expected to respond to a 911 call immediately and couldn't in this circumstance.

"That's the theory behind why you shouldn't do it. Was it a mistake? Absolutely," Kelly said.

April 2018

Then early in 2018, Kelly received a reprimand for not wearing his duty belt — gun, spare ammunition, chemical agent, Taser, handcuffs, etc. — while on duty. He also did not have on his protective vest. Therefore, he was unprepared to respond in an emergency.

Questioned by Capt. Gordon Rohr, Kelly first said the claim was partially true because he had taken off the belt to use the restroom, but the reprimand shows Kelly still was not wearing the belt later in the office.

Kelly also said he was wearing a long-sleeve uniform, so his vest was hidden. Video from a traffic stop that day, however, disputed Kelly's claim. He was wearing a short-sleeve shirt.

When challenged on this, Kelly then said his back was bothering him.

Kelly recalled that he was asked if he had a doctor's note.

"No. I didn't know I needed one," Kelly said. He subsequently got a note from a chiropractor and went on medical leave for a month. His back still bothers him.

"It is hard to provide 'prompt' police action when an officer is out of full uniform and has to take the time to put on his body armor and duty belt," Rohr wrote in the reprimand letter, adding, "The citizens of Red Wing and your fellow officers might be caught in an incident where a delayed response of even seconds could result in injury or death."

Kelly had been previously warned in April and May 2017 for violating Red Wing Police Department General Order 5, which covers officer preparedness.

"I take full responsibility for all of these. We obviously learn from our mistakes and I've done that," Kelly said. "Have I made mistakes? Yes, I have — even prior to these, you know, nothing came to this extent, which I quite frankly don't think is too serious in a span of 30 years."