Update: Former Fargo Police officer allowed to resign

Appeal hearing for Fargo Police Officer Justin Nachatilo on June 9, 2022.
Appeal hearing for Fargo Police Officer Justin Nachatilo on June 9, 2022.(Valley News Live)
Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 6:43 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Former FPD Officer Justin Nachatilo accepted the city of Fargo’s counteroffer to accept his resignation without vacating the decision of the Civil Service Commission. The motion was approved at Monday’s city commission meeting. Via letter, he submitted his retroactive resignation letter in substitution for his termination of employment, adding “It was an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Fargo during my employment at the Fargo Police Department.”

Original story: A 19-year veteran of the Fargo Police Department is hoping to clear his name after being terminated. A lengthy appeal hearing happened on June 9 and the city commission remains split on what to do next.

The debate is whether the termination of Officer Justin Nachatilo followed policy or was politically motivated.

Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner Arlette Preston voted to terminate Nachatilo, while commissioners John Strand and Dave Piepkorn voted to allow Nachatilo to resign. Commissioner Tony Gehrig was not present at the meeting. There was also a concern about how this vote may set a precedent for future terminations of city employees.

Nachatilo was fired in December after an internal review found he mishandled two cases. Police Chief David Zibolski says Nachatilo was on his way to a call about two missing children, but took 27 minutes to respond and stopped along the way. Nachatilo says it was believed that the two children were with their biological mother and not in danger. However, the department says this would be considered a high-priority case and the appropriate paperwork was not filed. It wasn’t until 6 hours later that officers were able to confirm that the biological mother had the children.

In another case, it’s alleged that he did not meet with the victim of a stolen vehicle or finish paperwork. The city also claims the officer discarded evidence in the case and tried to conceal the mistake. In February, Fargo’s Civil Service Commission upheld Nachatilo’s termination in a 4-1 vote.

Nachatilo claims improper considerations played a role in his firing and he was not given the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations. His lawyer claims Chief David Zibolski was using Nachatilo as a “scapegoat” to please activists at the Civil Service Commission meeting who were trying to oust “bad cops” after the riot in downtown Fargo following the death of George Floyd.

The attorney for the city of Fargo says they conducted a full investigation and the two counts against Officer Nachatilo are appropriate and fully supported by evidence. She maintains the decision was not improper and not politically motivated.

Nachatilo says he suffers from PTSD after a military deployment in Iraq, which played a role in his work backlog and/or delay in filing reports. He was honorably discharged from the military due to PTSD from his deployment.

The city says since the city commission tied on a 2-2 vote, the termination decision made by the Civil Service Commission stands as of June 9. If Officer Nachatilo is terminated, he would still maintain his peace officer’s license within the state of North Dakota.

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