December 1, 2016

Two Denison police officers — one of whom was fired this year — allege their former chief and Denison city leaders illegally retaliated against them, according to lawsuits filed in federal court.

Ray Ohl, 27, and Brad Wendt, 40, seek unspecified amounts of money.

Ohl was fired in February for alleged insubordination.

Wendt was suspended without pay in December 2015 after he was charged with hunting-related crimes that were recently dismissed in court.

According to the lawsuits, the retaliation began after a September 2015 incident in which Ohl claims he witnessed police Chief John Emswiler illegally enter an apartment without a warrant as they sought to arrest a man who lived there.

Wendt reported the incident to the state Office of Ombudsman, which investigates complaints against government officials.

Emswiler was aware Wendt reported it, the lawsuits say.

In December 2015, Wendt and two other men were charged with a total of 30 hunting violations for a January 2015 hunting trip in which they were accused of recklessly using firearms and illegally using a vehicle and cellphones to hunt two bucks, which they shot and killed.

Wendt was originally suspended with pay, but Emswiler later decided he would not be paid because one of the criminal charges was an aggravated misdemeanor.

Those charges were dismissed in district court on Tuesday. Current police Chief Daniel Schaffer declined to comment on whether Wendt will return to work at the Denison Police Department. He is still listed as a patrol officer on the city’s website.

It’s unclear why the charges were dismissed. Cass County Attorney Dave Wiederstein, who prosecuted the case, did not respond to a Daily Times Herald request for more information.

The alleged retaliation against Ohl also began in December when Ohl was poised to become the department’s handler of a K-9 dog. Ohl raised most of the money to pay for the dog and had trained with it, but Emswiler abruptly nixed Ohl’s role as handler and demanded he return the dog to the department.

Not long after, Ohl and Wendt went public with dozens of racist, sexist and pornographic images that Emswiler kept on his work computer.

Ohl was fired in February.

Emswiler resigned from the department in June.

Wendt and Ohl had filed lawsuits against Emswiler and the city in state district court, but the cases were moved to federal court last month. Both men are represented by the same Council Bluffs attorney.

It’s unclear when the lawsuits will conclude.