Former North Liberty police chief says resignation was for 'personal reasons'

Chief hired as North Liberty's first officer in 1999

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UPDATE: NORTH LIBERTY — The former North Liberty police chief has announced his resignation was for 'personal reasons' through a city press release Wednesday afternoon.

According to the release, which does not shed light on the specifics of his decision to resign, Warkentin said he chose to step down from his position for personal reasons. The release says his resignation as chief was effective Feb. 1, 2013.

Scott Peterson, North Liberty city attorney, said the council will likely consider his resignation at their next meeting on Tuesday.

In the release, Warkentin addresses the community and speaks fondly of his time working for the department.

“For personal reasons, I have resigned as chief of police effective February 1, 2013,” Warkentin said. “I want to thank the community for its support throughout the years, and I want to thank the City and the staff with whom I have had the pleasure to work.”

The release also included a statement from the city council, thanking him for his service and wishing him well on his future endeavors.

The statement comes just one day after North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm confirmed Warkentin was no longer employed by the city. When approached for comment at his home on Tuesday, Warkentin declined by shaking his head and waving his hand from the window of his home.

Warkentin worked for the department from Aug. 9, 1999 to Feb. 4, 2013. His most recent salary was $86,361,60.

The city’s website names Diane Venenga, who has been with the department since 1999, as the acting police chief. Venenga was recently named North Liberty’s 2013 employee of the year, and was described by city staff as an officer who serves as a solid role model for others and constantly looks for ways to improve her own performance and that of others around her, according to a release on the city’s website. She did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Warkentin grew up in North Liberty, graduated from the University of Iowa, and served as a Cedar Falls police officer before being hired by the city in 1999.

He was also involved in a fatal shooting in Aug. 2003, when he killed a motorcyclist he was chasing behind Kate Wickham Elementary School in Coralville.  The man shot, Kyle Wasson, died of a single gunshot wound to the chest after he struggled with Warkentin, got into his police car and tried to shut the door. Reports said Wasson had a pistol on him during the incident, but it had fallen from his waistband during his initial struggle with Warkentin.

Warkentin was cleared of criminal charges in that incident by by a grand jury in Feb. 2004.

Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford said Tuesday that, though their department regularly supports North Liberty when officers are needed, he does not expect Warkentin’s absence to trigger any changes in patrolling.

The Gazette's Gregg Hennigan contributed to this report.

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