Sen. Lundberg tangled in flap over firing of policeman who ticketed his daughter

Bristol city officials were concerned about “political interference and retaliation” by state Sen. Jon Lundberg after his daughter was ticketed by a police officer who was subsequently fired, reports the Bristol Herald Courier.

The Bristol Republican says he did not try to get his daughter out of the ticket and has actively opposed dismissal of officer Phil Kiersnowski – though he contacted the city police chief at the time to jokingly remark on his wife and daughter both being ticketed  by Bristol police on the same day.

The senator said he was disappointed to learn that his own actions, in addition to Kiersnowski’s, had been reviewed for any possible criminal conduct. No action resulted from the review.

Interactions between the city, the officer and Lundberg’s family began Nov. 29, when Kiersnowki pulled Lundberg’s daughter over for a possible window tint violation, according to documents obtained by the Bristol Herald Courier through a Freedom of Information Act request.

During the stop, Kiersnowski appeared to cover his body camera microphone with his hand, according to an internal affairs complaint form in the officer’s disciplinary file. Eventually, the officer removed his hand from the microphone, determined that the tint violated state code and Samantha Lundberg, the senator’s daughter, was given a citation.

… Police Chief Blaine Wade wrote in a memorandum to City Director of Administration Mary Lee William that the officer told Lundberg’s daughter while his audio was muted that the administration was “pushing the window tint charges and one phone call from her father could save everyone a lot of grief.”

The officer was “insubordinate with his attempt to persuade someone to take action to change police department policy that he does not agree with,” Wade wrote.

City officials decided to fire Kiersnowski, according to a letter dated Dec. 3.

In a Dec. 8 letter, written on Senate letterhead, to Chief Wade and City Manager Bill Sorah, Lundberg wrote: “On Nov. 29, I was surprised to learn that my wife and my daughter had been separately ticketed for traffic violations. I telephone Chief Wade [on Nov. 29] and ‘teasingly’ questioned what I considered to be the timing and coincidence of the citations.”

Lundberg’s wife had been stopped by a different city officer earlier in the day for a speeding violation.

“I soon learned that both citations were issued in good faith and were justified under the circumstances,” Lundberg wrote. “I understand that Officer Kiersnowski made an unprofessional and perhaps foolish comment regarding my official status while he was ticketing my daughter. I do not take personal or professional offense.”

He proceeds in the letter to say he did not think Kiersnowski should be discharged.

…“No, no,” he said when asked by the Bristol Herald Courier if he was aware of the review. “Now I knew that he had submitted something regarding the officer. So frankly, I met with our district attorney general, but in no way did I know that he had concerns on my actions.”

Lundberg said he was confused about the memo’s mention of possible “political interference and retaliation.”

“I don’t know exactly how you would retaliate against the Police Department,” Lundberg said. “My concern would not be retaliating against the Police Department. The Police Department is obviously a city department. I have no influence over its operation, or clearly over the hiring or firing there.”

The dismissal of Kiersnowski and Lundberg’s involvement was initially reported by WJHL-TV. Excerpt from that report:

“I’m not responsible, but I’m involved and I feel badly,” Lundberg said. “I feel really badly.”

… (D)uring the traffic stop (Kiersnowski) criticized the police department’s window tinting enforcement and urged (Samantha) Lundberg to get her father involved.

“I am going to give you a citation, because that’s only because the admin’s on our a**,” Kiersnowski said while trying to mute his microphone during the traffic stop. “One phone call from your dad will probably save us a lot of heartache.”

As the stop continued, Kiersnowski briefly continued to try and mute his microphone.

“We all said if we find you driving we’re going to write you a ticket,” he said. “We all know your window tint is too dark.”

“You all targeting me?” Lundberg asked.

“No,” the officer responded before one more time urging her to call her father.

“One call from your dad would probably make all of this go away and probably save all of us a lot of heartache,” he said.

Sen. Lundberg said the officer didn’t realize it at the time, but he was actually listening to the traffic stop on speakerphone. However, he says he could not hear anything Kiersnowski said while he was whispering. Still, he called Chief Blaine Wade.

“I regret, frankly, picking up the phone and calling the chief,” he said.

 

…”At the time, I thought it was actually kind of funny,” he said. “Since I have a personal relationship with the chief I called him and I was truly laughing and said, ‘Hey chief, I’m on my way back from Nashville, I’m about an hour away, if you’re targeting my entire family, I’ll be there,'” he recalled. “He said, ‘We’re not targeting your family.'”

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