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Minot's Second Job Law

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On this date in 1951, a city law was proposed in Minot that created a stir; it would restrict city employees from having a second job.

Originally, the proposal targeted police officers. At a meeting held to discuss this and other ordinances, it was pointed out that the city already had such a law for firemen, so it seemed logical to adopt the same for policemen.

However, a number of the committee members found this unfair, including the mayor, who claimed the ordinance was aimed at a specific police officer.

The officer was Gisle Johnson. Johnson was born in Iceland in 1901, and had come to Bantry, North Dakota as a child. He served in the army during World War I, then worked as a bricklayer for a number of years, eventually settling in Minot. In 1934, he became a police officer, and in 1950 even ran for sheriff of Ward County. All the while, he kept a side job as a bricklayer.

His second job hadn’t been a problem, but on July 31, 1951, the Chief of Police was charged with violating the civil service law of the city when 12 police officers said he rigged a police department civil service examination so his favorites would get promoted, and those who weren’t his favorites couldn’t take the exam. Johnson was named as one of the injured parties.

With the case going to court, many of the men were put on leave and some even dismissed. Firemen, radio operators, and others filled in. Johnson was visiting in Iceland during this time.

In the wake of the dispute, the ordinance to disallow a second job was perceived by some as a way to target Johnson.

It was decided that, if anything, the proposal should apply to all city employees, not just policemen, and as such, instead of an ordinance, perhaps they should amend the civil service law.

The mayor weighed in, saying: “Listen… our policemen and firemen have had to become professional blood donors as it is now, in order to get along and keep their families together. They are selling their blood for $25 a pint. What do you want them to do? If you restrict them from picking up extra money at legitimate jobs, they’ll have to sell not only their blood, but their flesh.”

In the end, officer Gisle Johnson remained on duty.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Ward County Independent, Thursday, March 16, 1950, p1

Ward County Independent, August 2, 1951; August 9, 1951; August 16, 1951; September 27, 1951

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