Police chief in Nashua demoted to police officer - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Police chief in Nashua demoted to police officer

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NASHUA (KWWL) - Nashua's Chief of Police for the last 13 years is now just a police officer. During Monday night's city council meeting, the council unanimously voted to demote Ernie Willsher from chief to officer after 26 years total of service.

Ernie Willsher's lawyer said after he returned to work from a serious bicycling injury, the newly appointed mayor told him he was being demoted.

His lawyer believes it's discrimination, based on age and disability. Willsher was medically cleared to come back to work after suffering many injuries in the bicycling accident, including a broken clavicle and a punctured lung. The mayor, though, said the demotion is nothing personal. It's what she believes is best for the town.

Sandy Harrington is a friend of Willsher. She believes he was demoted without cause, which is why she helped start a petition in support of Willsher.

"We only had three days to do it. We got 344 signatures. We just walked the town and got as many people as we could during that holiday weekend. Understand, the petition was just to reinstate. It wasn't anything to discredit the mayor or the the new elect chief, it was just community support saying we want Ernie back as chief," said Sandy Harrington.

Willsher will keep his benefits and his pay. Mayor Deanne Lantow couldn't give specific reasons for the demotion citing it as a "personnel matter." However, she did say she hopes Willsher stays on with the police department.

"Ernie is a nice man. He's pleasant. He's easy to talk to. I feel it's time to move on for better and bigger things for the whole town," said Deanne Lantow.

KWWL spoke with Ernie Willsher's attorney, Sarah Reindl of Mason City, on the phone. She believes the mayor is trying to force her client to retire. He's 58 years old. But the mayor said there's no discrimination.

"This has nothing to do with age. I'm not very far behind him. There's no discrimination. No," said Lantow.

Sandy Harrington said the demotion wasn't done in the right way, and Willsher deserves to retire as police chief when he wants.

"I just want Ernie to have the dignity and the respect he deserves," said Harrington.

Mayor Deanne Lantow said she's going to keep moving forward with other city business.

Ernie Willsher's attorney said she requested a public hearing as soon as possible. As of now, we don't have a date for that hearing.
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