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Sebeka council calls meeting to discuss police chief accused of DWI

SEBEKA, Minn. - The Sebeka City Council will hold a closed meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss the city’s police chief, who was cited last week on a charge of driving while intoxicated.

A New York Mills police officer stopped Eric Swenson, 48, just outside city limits about 11 p.m. Feb. 26. As of Wednesday afternoon, Otter Tail County court administration hadn’t scheduled a court date for the DWI case because it had yet to receive the citation from the city, which does not file electronically.

The police report won’t be made public until Swenson appears in Otter Tail County District Court, said Heather Brandborg, assistant Otter Tail County attorney.

If Swenson received the seven-day grace period typically granted to those cited for DWI, his license would have been suspended Wednesday.

The chief continued to patrol the town in the days following the DWI citation. But Swenson did not show up for work Wednesday, said Sebeka City Clerk Sally Sandberg.

She said she had no information about when or whether he would return to the job. Although Swenson is Sebeka’s only full-time officer, the town employs a couple of regular part-timers and a few others who fill in as needed.

“It’s not like we don’t have law enforcement,” Sandberg said.

A call to the Sebeka Police Department’s nonemergency line Wednesday redirected to the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office, as it always does when no one is in the office.

Sheriff Mike Carr said the county already frequently responds to calls in Sebeka.

“Nothing will change on our end,” he said. “We’ve been down this road before.”

Swenson was suspended for 30 days last summer after a misdemeanor charge of fifth-degree domestic assault. That case is ongoing, with a pretrial scheduling conference slated for Monday.

Earlier last year, Swenson pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor prompted by “drunk and belligerent” behavior at a Huntersville bar, according to the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office. The judge fined Swenson and sentenced him to 30 days in jail stayed for one year of probation, which required him to stay out of trouble.

In addition to last year’s suspension, the council suspended Swenson for a week without pay in 2010 and ordered him to complete a police ethics course after several incidents that year, including a report that he responded to a call with alcohol on his breath.

In October 2010, he made national news after reporting that SWAT equipment had gone missing from his Otter Tail County home. A sheriff’s office report stated that Swenson found the items -- loaded magazines for both a Glock 9 mm handgun and an AR-15 rifle, night vision goggles and stun grenades -- a week later in a backyard fort built by his then 9-year-old son. Later that month, Swenson told the Wadena Pioneer Journal that the items were actually found inside the house.

Bryce Haugen | Wadena Pioneer Journal

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