Supporters rally around former police chief at city council meeting

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IRON RIVER, Mich. (WLUC) It's been more than two months since TV6 reported, the now former Iron River Police Chief Laura Frizzo, was placed on administrative leave by the city manager. And Wednesday night was the first city council meeting since her controversial firing earlier this month. The public voiced their concerns and disapproval of the city manager's recent decision.

Almost immediately after our news story aired, those in support of the former chief showed their dismay, and Wednesday night was no different. The majority of those in attendance were supporters of Frizzo and demanded she be reinstated and, further, that city manager David Thayer be the one fired.

"She's the right person for this job and, whether you agree with it or 'Mr. Snooty' there agrees with it, it doesn't matter! That man there does not belong in here," said one supporter of Frizzo. "He does not belong to this town, he does not belong on this council. She belongs where she was!"

But the few in support of Thayer also spoke out against the former police chief.

"There are many people out there that have had terrible experiences with Mrs. Frizzo," said Iron River resident Dennis Tousignant. "The people that are here thinking she does no wrong need to know there's lots wrong that she does and, just because you're hearing one side; you're hearing the supporters of her…that's not the whole story."

Tensions ran so high during the public comment session, one resident was even asked to leave. And it didn't end there...

Details about both Thayer's and Frizzo's criminal history also surfaced. Allegations of Frizzo getting a DUI and having a restraining order placed against her were brought up.

"What's important to note is that I overcame those issues 11 years ago that were in my private life," Frizzo said. "They had nothing to do with work, and I was able to overcome those issues and come back a stronger officer; a better officer. And, for the record, I have never had a restraining order out against me!"

Throughout this entire process, Thayer's arrest in February of 2010 on 24 misdemeanor counts while city manager in Grayling, Mich. has been a contentious issue. He was ultimately convicted for violating campaign finance laws but that, according to Thayer, was all part of a political agenda.

"That was so far from the facts, but it took traction because there was a political movement to remove me, and it's unfortunate," Thayer said. "I live with it everyday; it won't go away for the rest of my life, but it's just unfortunate to get caught up in a political battle of that nature."

A number of questions and allegations, as to Thayer's real motives for relieving Frizzo of her duties, were brought forth to the council.

"'That b**ch!' that's what he said, and he said a woman does not belong in this position…why?!" another Iron River resident asked.

"Absolutely did not happen," Thayer said. "Laura's dismissal has to do with a disagreement we have on management style and professionalism. I demand that all of my staff people treat all of our citizens with respect; I expect that they're able to control their temper; I expect that their assessment of situations is not a prejudgment but something based on the facts. That did not take place in this case."

According to Frizzo's attorney, Roy Polich, Thayer has 'a history of animosity toward women' and when I spoke to Frizzo after the meeting, she said Thayer did, in fact, refer to her using a vulgar term during a dispute in a phone conversation over the city budget, also witnessed, Frizzo said, by other employees.

"Never took place, never!" Thayer exclaimed. "Have them bring the witness forward and testify to the fact that they seen me say that to her! It did not happen."

Frizzo's termination came after Thayer's refusal to allow her to return to work after a medical leave, following her testimony in the Kelly Cochran murder trial in September. Frizzo was lead investigator in the case against Cochran, possibly the most notorious murder case the city of Iron River has ever seen.

"I'm appalled, number one, as to why a city manager would appoint himself as an acting police chief," said an Iron Mountain resident and former Michigan State Police trooper in attendance. "A city manager has no business going into police files. You're citizens. You're not privied to that information, so that needs to be addressed!" she stated. "I don't know why the attorney general's office hasn't been contacted, regarding ethical violations and criminal violations."

"That does kinda concern me. It should concern them, as well, as to how this is gonna be handled, at this point," Frizzo said. "All I can say is that my administrative who worked hand-in-hand with me on the Cochran case has been able to help me and help us maintain things that need to be done with the prosecutor's office to help things move along, so that we can continue with that."

After more than two months of being placed on administrative leave and being cleared to return by two physicians, including one chosen by the city manager, Frizzo was ultimately relieved of duties as police chief on December 9.

"I feel comfortable with our decision and since I've made the decision, a number of people in our community have thanked me for doing it," Thayer said.

"I'll go out of here with my head high, because I've done a lot for people and, the things that I have done, those are the things that will stick with me," Frizzo said. "I have pride in my work, a strong work ethic that will follow me wherever I go."

Speculations on whether a lawsuit will be filed against the city have circulated but, according to Thayer, if litigation is pursued, he is more than confident all his actions will be vindicated.

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