MADRID, Iowa -- "I have filed two federal civil rights lawsuits against the city of Madrid, in particular against the chief of police Rick Tasler and Officer Nick Millsap," said Glen Downey of Downey & Mundy Law Firm. "Officer Millsap is no longer with the department."
Both of these lawsuits allege that the Madrid Police Department used excessive force against citizens. The city settled the first lawsuit for $50,000, and a second lawsuit is currently pending and in the discovery process.
"There was a conversation between Tasler and the mayor in which they tried to encourage my client not to file a lawsuit, that he misunderstood what happened between him and the officers, and that he shouldn't be filing a lawsuit," said Downey. "And this was prior to him actually filing the lawsuit but after he engaged in conversation with me, so the claim against the mayor is that he engaged in what's called first amendment retaliation."
Dirk Ringgenberg abruptly resigned as mayor this week, and a city councilman says this most recent lawsuit is the reason why. With Ringgenberg's resignation, Mayor Pro-Tem Kurt Kruse is serving as acting mayor. Kruse is denying social media rumors that Ringgenberg resigned due to a plan to shut down the police department. Kruse says he was not aware of any such discussions ever taking place, and says at this point there are no plans to fire the police chief or dissolve the police department.
However, Boone County Sheriff Gregg Elsberry says he suggested the idea of his office and deputies taking over the police department after Ringgenberg asked for help.
"He (Ringgenberg) said down the road if something happens administratively, would you help us out? I said yes, but then I gave him a proposal for more," said Elsberry.
Sheriff Elsberry says the takeover proposal stems from concerns he has about the police department.
"There's an email account that's through Boone County, for that purpose, we need the security, we need the firewall," said Elsberry. "If we have a BOLO come across, for example of a robbery or whatever it be, we need that to go to their email. You know, found out that, there's been 128 emails that haven't been read. They haven't been paying attention to the email."
Elsberry says Chief Tasler has claimed he doesn't get email.
Elsberry expressed other questions he has, saying: "Is there a reason why our sheriff's office deputies respond to Madrid on a call and beat the Madrid officer there? Why is that? When Madrid is on call, sometimes they don't go out on calls and we take it."
These are just a few of many concerns Elsberry has about the police department. He's also concerned about the tactics and techniques being used by officers as well as body cameras not being used properly, and he questions whether citizens are being treated equally after receiving many complaints that they are not.
Chief Tasler declined to do an interview for this report.