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Fargo leaders expected to OK resignation of former police officer

Natchatilo appealed to the Fargo City Commission, which deadlocked last week on the question of whether to uphold the Civil Service Commission decision to uphold Natchatilo's firing, or allow Natchatilo to resign as a way of resolving the issue.

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Justin Nachatilo, a former police officer, listens to proceedings during his hearing in the Fargo City Commission chambers on Thursday, June 9, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — City commissioners are expected to vote to approve a settlement proposal that would let a former police officer resign rather than be fired.

That's according to Leo Wilking, an attorney for Justin Natchatilo, a Fargo police officer who was told by Police Chief David Zibolski in December that he was being terminated.

The Fargo Civil Service Commission upheld the termination in February. Natchatilo then appealed to the City Commission, which deadlocked last week on the question of whether to uphold the Civil Service Commission decision to uphold Natchatilo's firing, or allow Natchatilo to resign as a way of resolving the issue.

No tie-breaking vote was available during the appeal hearing before the City Commission because Commissioner Tony Gehrig was absent.

The full City Commission met in a special closed-door session Monday night, June 13, and emerged from the session without taking an official action.

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However, on Tuesday, City Attorney Nancy Morris sent a written proposal to Wilking, which states the City Commission wished to resolve the employment matter by accepting an offer Nachatilo had made to resign, with the resignation effective Jan. 12, 2022.

Morris said the commission would likely accept the resignation as a consent agenda item at an upcoming regular meeting.

In a letter to the city, Nachatilo wrote that in return for being allowed to resign he would forgo any future legal claims against the city.

"This is what we wanted," Wilking said, referring to the proposed settlement.

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Commissioner Gehrig would not discuss specifics of what was talked about in the City Commission's closed-door session on Monday night. But Gehrig said his own view of the situation is that Nachatilo should be allowed to resign, which suggests that Gehrig's presence at Monday's meeting prompted the proposed settlement.

During the Civil Service Commission hearing in February, Zibolski focused on two cases he said were central to Nachatilo's firing — a missing persons report from September 2021, involving two children under the age of 13, and a stolen vehicle case from July 2021.

In the case of the missing children, Zibolski said it took Nachatilo 27 minutes to respond to the call and he said that on his way to the call Nachatilo stopped to buy a cup of coffee.

Zibolski said Nachatilo never filed a required missing persons report in the case and that information about the missing children was never placed in a national data bank as required by policy.

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In testimony before the Civil Service Commission, Nachatilo said based on what the biological father and stepmother of the missing children told him and a West Fargo police officer early in the investigation, he believed the children had been picked up by their biological mother who was visiting the area and had indicated she wanted to see the children.

Nachatilo said that was ultimately determined to be the case when the biological mother phoned police later in the day.

In the stolen vehicle case, Zibolski said Nachatilo never met with the victim and never completed a report regarding the vehicle until it was found abandoned in a field two days later by the Cass County Sheriff's Office.

Zibolski said evidence the sheriff's office found in the vehicle that might have shed light on who stole it — a soda can and a pair of socks — was given to Nachatilo, who never filed the socks into evidence and said he accidentally threw the soda can away.

Wilking has said the punishment handed out to Nachatilo, a 19-year veteran of the police department, was excessive given the allegations against him.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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