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Libby to lose another police officer

by HAYDEN BLACKFORD
Daily Inter Lake | March 8, 2023 12:00 AM

Another officer is leaving the Libby Police Department.

Mayor Peggy Williams announced the impending departure of the officer at a Feb. 21 Libby City Council meeting. The officer's exit comes after three other officers resigned in November 2022.

Officials did not identify the departing officer, but said March 31 will mark his final day on the job.

City Administrator Sam Sikes offered no new information on the status of Police Chief Scott Kessel, who has been on sick leave since Jan. 16.

Sikes said there is no available information on when Kessel's status will change "because these questions deal with privacy issues."

He also said the city will never anticipate if someone will be fired or resign.

“Libby seeks information, not an outcome,” Sikes said.

The city is still working on forming a police commission. Officials said they received applications from four candidates. Williams has conducted interviews and nominated three people: John BeBee, Karen Dinkins and Steven Boyer.

If City Council approves the nominations, the mayor will name the three nominees to one-, two- and three-year appointments, Sikes said.

As for the third party investigation and report into the police department, it is not yet available to the public. It is not anticipated to be available for a couple of weeks, Williams said.

Also, the city passed a Memorandum of Agreement between it and the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office for help with administrative work.

“The purpose of this MOA is to provide the terms and conditions of the agreement between the parties for the sheriff to provide administrative support to the city police on a temporary basis, and for payment for such services,” the document states.

The move primarily is intended to get caught up on incident reporting, Williams said. Although she noted it is not limited to just that.

“Due to the volume of City Police Incident Based Reporting (IBR) backlog, the sheriff will provide enough administrative personnel working on overtime to complete all mandatory calendar year 2022 reporting to federal authorities in compliance with the existing March 15, 2023, deadline for submission of calendar year 2022 IBR,” the document states.

"There is no estimate as to the hours it will take to transfer all the information from our system into the IBR," Sikes said.

The funding to complete the administrative work will come from the general fund, specifically dollars budgeted for seasonal help, Sikes said.

Later in the Feb. 21 meeting Councilor Hugh Taylor addressed the police issue.

“It’s my opinion that we have failed the community,” Taylor said. “We have no answers: What's going on with the chief? The employees? We have failed these officers, we have made these guys do more work than they are capable of even doing."

Other council members either remained quiet or tried to calm Taylor.

“I would remind you that all of this is covered under employee privacy,” Williams said.

“I believe that we have addressed public safety by engaging with the county,” said Councilor Kristin Smith. “That is our solution at this time until it continues to resolve itself.”

“I believe the administration has been doing what they can, and we just have to keep moving forward,” Councilor Brian Zimmerman said. “Officers, thank you again for everything you’re doing."