Council member allegedly threatened officer’s job because he arrested his son

A criminal complaint filed against Council Member Richard Aluma Paul accuses him of threatening to have Officer Justin Pohlman fired for arresting his son Joseph Richard.

Richard Paul/City of Blaine

A member of the Blaine City Council is facing two misdemeanor charges after allegedly threatening a police officer who arrested his son in November.

A criminal complaint filed against Council Member Richard Aluma Paul accuses him of threatening to have Officer Justin Pohlman fired for arresting his son Joseph Richard, who was stopped on a bicycle after dark without any lights or reflective equipment the night of Nov. 3, 2021.

“When Officer Pohlman ran a check on [Richard’s] name, it showed an active warrant for theft out of Anoka County,” the complaint says. “Mr. Richard called his Dad [after getting arrested] to see if he could come and pick up his bike from the stop location, so it wouldn’t have to be impounded.”

The complaint alleges that Paul asked his son if he could talk with the officers. Paul told Officer Pohlman to bring his son home, but when Officer Pohlman said he couldn’t do that, Paul began threatening him.

“Don’t force me to do the other thing,” Paul said. When Pohlman asked Paul what that meant and if he was going to come pick up his son’s backpack and bike, Paul said, “I’m going to call the chief and you gonna be out of work.”

After abruptly hanging up the phone, Paul soon arrived on scene and said once again, “you’re out of work.” When offered to travel with his son to jail to bail him out, Paul said, “If I go tonight, you’re both going to jail.” He did not elaborate on what that meant.

“It’s gonna be easy or it’s not gonna be easy,” he said before leaving the scene.

The two charges Paul faces include misconduct of a public officer or employee, a gross misdemeanor, and a code of ethics violation for using his council position to “secure special privileges or exemptions.”

“We’ve received multiple comments and contacts from citizens who have expressed concern in regards to the incident involving Council Member Richard Paul,” Blaine Police Chief Brian Podany told KARE. “We also expect a lot of our officers, who conducted themselves with the integrity that should be expected of law enforcement.”

Blaine Mayor Tim Sanders said in a statement that he has received “many requests or inquiries on consequences for Councilmember Paul.”

“The Blaine City Charter dictates the criteria for vacancies on Council but does not provide authority for the Council to independently remove an individual member,” he said.

Sanders then said he called a special meeting of the City Council to discuss “new information, posted to Facebook, of an interaction between a resident and Councilmember Paul.”

“If verifiable, the statements are again, very troubling coming from a councilmember,” he continued.

Sanders didn’t elaborate on what those comments were and Thursday’s special meeting lasted just six minutes.

“We know many of you are frustrated. We know many of you are disappointed and understandably so. I ask that you allow the criminal process to move forward and play out,” he said.

If Paul is convicted on both charges, he could face a maximum sentence of a combined one year and three months’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of $4,000.