Korst tape viewed by the public, Mayor praises officer

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

Over 40 people showed up for the city council meeting on Tuesday. With so many attending, desks had to be moved and extra chairs brought in from the city offices.

The council chamber was filled and many viewed the meeting from the entry way.

What brought the crew out was an alleged statement that police officer Jason Korst made when he pulled over a car with dealer plates. He is reported to have said that the business community were crooks and employees spit in your food and an ensuing letter to the editor was published.

Members of the business community had requested to be on the agenda and view a police tape purportedly showing Korst making that statement. The city checked with their attorney who informed them it was public information and could be seen and shown

Before the tape was viewed, there was a public comment by those present and the mayor/council.

Scott Arvidson from the Home Café told the council that the group was here to request a viewing of the tape, and “The only way to clear this is to view the tape.”

Bill Campbell commented, “If what he said is right, he (Korst) needs to be gone.”

Lauriena Yarger from Coaches Corner told the council that, “We’ve been asked every night if they spit in their food. This has come down to my employees.”

Buck Traxler said officers, like the elected officials need to be held to a higher standard, because they represent the city. He noted thathe and Pat Lee, the publisher of the newspaper have worked very hard to build up the business and in one statement, it may come crumbling down. He also didn’t appreciate being called a crook (allegedly).

Meagan Heinen thought the incident had been over blown and former mayor Byron Grubb said in part this was a misstatement by the I-O. 

Fred Morris from Courtesy Ford noted, “These are very serious accusations. We are fair people, we just need to know – by seeing the tape.”

Mayor Wendy Judisch commented, “We need to be held to a high standard. This is a tremendous community, but the timing of the letter couldn’t be worse. I have to say, officer Korst is a tremendous officer and a truly great officer.”

Councilman Rick Moss cautioned the people, “Don’t bring your bias to view the tape, be objective.”

Councilman Drew Lesnik read a prepared statement from the council: “We would like to start by saying the Jason Korst and other members of the Conrad police force are dedicated members of the community. Officer Korst has been in the Conrad Police Department for seven years and has served our community with devotion and respect. At this time the council wanted to address recent concerns over comments made during a traffic stop by Officer Korst.

Ron Widhalm, Karla Breding, and I (Drew Lesnik) had the opportunity in the last week to view the video and found officer Korst’s action to be professional and the purpose of the stop to be justified. Upon a conversation with Mr. (Greg) Nickol, Officer Korst explained he would not be issuing a citation and had made the stop due to lack of proper documentation in the car window while displaying a dealer plate and wanted to assure the car was not stolen and that they corrected the violation. Officer Korst attempted to exit the conversation after this explanation.

After further attempts by Mr. Nickol to justify his action, Officer Korst made a single comment that was regrettable to be made in a professional setting regarding his fears for his personal health. In my opinion (Lesnik) the comment was not made with malice or ill intent towards any business in town, rather was an unfortunate off-the-cuff comment that came out of either a perceived or real personal interaction that Officer Korst had at some point during his service as a police officer. There were no further comments made regarding businesses being crooks that we heard on the tape.

Officer Korst regrets the comment and did not make it with any ill will towards Conrad businesses or citizens. As mentioned Jason has made his home here for seven years. We understand the displeasure with the comment by businesses and members of the community, but we do not believe it reflects Officer Korst’s talent as a police officer or his dedication to service our residents.”

With the council accepting the officers’ regrets, no action was taken.

In other business before the council, 11 residential building permits were read. One was for a new house, one to replace steps, six were for reroofing projects, one was to replace steps, another for egress windows, and one for new siding and a deck.

Brenda Longcake was on hand to discuss a bill she received from the city for $375 for them mowing down a piece of property she has here. Longcake, a realtor, lives in Shelby but also operates part of her business in Conrad.

PWD Rich Anderson commented, “I don’t go around looking for high grass, we only go out when it’s absolutely necessary.” Alderman Moss felt Longcake should pay the bill. The council moved on a 4-0 vote to leave the bill as is.

It approved the use of Norley Hall for the Community Cancer Foundation, passed an agreement to move forward with the historic lighting agreement and design.

The council will also move forward with the redistricting of Wards 1-2 and have a public hearing, date to be set.

The aldermen agreed upon procedures for building codes and passed a street light assessment that will amount to about $3.23 a year. A public hearing to discuss this was set for July 15 at city hall.

After some discussion on delinquent water, sewer and weed bills, the council moved on a 4-0 to turn them over to the county for collection. Currently there is $12,575 in standing accounts that will be turned over to the county for collection.

The city council meets every first and third Tuesday in city hall, 413 S. Main at 6 p.m.

The public is always encouraged to attend and get swept up by the bustling civics-in-action buzz of your government at work.