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Ely police officer Carlson charged with sexual assault

The Ely Echo of Ely, Minnesota

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Carlson remains on payroll, could collect salary for another y

An Ely police officer has been indicted by a St. Louis County grand jury and faces a felony charge of criminal sexual assault.

But at least for now, Jason Carlson remains on paid leave, continues to collect over $ 1,000 per week in wages, and could stay on the payroll for as long as another year.

Earlier this week, council members directed city attorney Kelly Klun to pursue a voluntary termination agreement that would end Carlson's employment with the ciy.

Carlson, 37, is accused of engaging in sexual conduct with a girl who was at least 16 but less than 18 years old, while he was in a position of authority over her.

But despite the existence of a criminal complaint, Klun cautioned that the city currently has no grounds to discipline the 10-year veteran of the Ely force. She added that Carlson — who has been on paid leave since April-would be able to collect a paycheck at least through a criminal trial that could be anywhere from six months to a year away.

"A trial at the earliest would be in the spring, and it could be longer than that," said Klun.

Klun told the council that county prosecutors won't release any data to the city in connection with the criminal case, and that through his union, Carlson has rejected requests to go on unpaid or discretionary leave.

Klun said that at this point, the city's options are limited to bringing Carlson back to work, to continue paying the officer $27.26 an hour to sit at home, or to seek a "structured resignation."

It's not clear what if any incentive Carlson has to voluntarily leave his position, although Klun indicated he has roughly $22,000 in accrued sick and vacation time.

Should Carlson be convicted, the city would have immediate grounds to terminate his employment, and he would lose accumulated benefits.

"Obviously a big concern here is taxpayer money," said Klun. "There's no win-win here. It's a very difficult situation for everyone."

If Carlson's case is not resolved until April, the city would be out roughly $57,000 in wages, plus health insurance and other benefits. The tab would exceed $80,000 if the case extends into next fall.

The developments clearly exasperated mayor Chuck Novak, who called it "an unsettling issue for us," noting that Carlson has been away from work for more than six months.

"We have a police officer under indictment for a felony," said Novak. "We're short an officer. And every time we turn a corner we are told there is nothing we can do. We're stuck. Nothing makes sense."

Novak added "if you hear me ranting and raving out in the halls someday, this would be one of the issues I'm ranting and raving about."

Carlson was placed on paid leave during the spring when city officials were made aware of accusations against him.

Klun said the decision "was based on the balance of public trust."

The accusations resulted in the seating of a grand jury, and the indictment leveled was made public Oct. 30, when Carlson made his first appearance in court.

Judge Gary Pagliaccetti set bail at $15,000 and referred Carlson to supervised release. The next hearing is set for Dec. 21.

According to authorities, Carlson allegedly committed the crime on or about Dec, 2014. No other details were immediately available.

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Original Publication Date: November 7, 2015

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