Fired for dishonesty, officer is then hired by another Iowa police department

By: - September 14, 2022 12:03 pm

Nicholas Blocker is sworn in as a West Liberty police officer in May, several weeks after being fired from the City of Marion’s police department for dishonesty. (Photo courtesy City of West Liberty.)

An eastern Iowa police officer who was fired in March for dishonesty is now working for another Iowa police department.

State records indicate Nicholas A. Blocker first went to work for the City of Marion as a police officer in 2016.

According to the recent findings of an administrative law judge, Blocker was placed on administrative leave in January of this year while the city investigated his allegation that he was being harassed at work due to the city’s request that he provide a doctor’s release allowing his return to duty after being out on leave because of COVID-19.

At the time, Blocker allegedly claimed he was being subjected to retaliation due to his medical condition and his use of sick days, and he claimed that others – including fellow police offers – were calling him names.

The city hired outside legal counsel to conduct an investigation that later determined Blocker, in several respects, had been dishonest with the city.

According to state records, the police chief interviewed Blocker after receiving the investigator’s conclusions and determined that Blocker continued to make dishonest statements about emails concerning the requested physician’s release to return to work. The chief allegedly determined Blocker was not truthful when he denied ever expressing concern regarding his safety or the safety of others, noting that there was an email in which Blocker had raised those issues in an effort to further one of his claims.

In addition, the investigator also is alleged to have concluded that Blocker was dishonest when asked whether he was looking for employment elsewhere at a time when he was seeking some sort of unspecified “designation” within the police department.

According to the judge’s findings, Blocker had claimed he had undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, but at the time he was making that assertion he had allegedly sent a text message undermining that claim. In the text message, Blocker allegedly posed the question of what might happen if he were to claim he had PTSD, which, he texted, he did not have.

As for Blocker’s claim that others in the department were calling him names, the investigator interviewed others who reportedly said either that it did not happen, or they did not recall it happening.

On March 29, Blocker was fired by the City of Marion for multiple acts of dishonesty in violation of city policy.

He later filed for unemployment benefits and the matter recently went to a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Darrin Hamilton. Blocker did not participate in the hearing, but city officials — including the police chief — did testify.

Hamilton then denied Blocker benefits, ruling that the city had presented “substantial and credible evidence” of on-the-job misconduct. “Multiple acts of dishonesty, getting caught in lies, for a police officer, whose honesty and integrity is vital for a police office to be effective, is misconduct,” Hamilton stated in his ruling.

Within three weeks of being fired, Blocker was hired by the city of West Liberty, which swore him in as a full-time city police officer at a council meeting on May 3. Blocker now works for the city as a part-time police officer, West Liberty officials said.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch was unable to reach Blocker and West Liberty Police Chief Eric Werling on Wednesday.

West Liberty Mayor Katherine McCullough said she’s not sure why Blocker was selected for employment as a city police officer.

“Honestly, I do not know,” she told the Capital Dispatch. “As mayor, I have been struggling with my city staff keeping me informed about — well, about anything, really. I know that initially, on this latest round of interviews with all the new officers, I was asked to participate, and then I was asked not to participate.”

She said she was unaware of Blocker’s termination by the City of Marion and acknowledged that his history raises questions as to why he’s now on West Liberty’s payroll. “My next phone call will be to my chief of police,” she added.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.