by Dave DeMars
It took a half hour of discussion in a closed session at the end of the June 4 regular meeting for the St. Joseph City Council to come to the decision to accept the resignation of Police Chief Joel Klein.
Mayor Rick Schultz read from a prepared statement and took no questions dealing with the investigation or the council decision after the meeting citing the Minnesota Data Practices Act which protects private data.
In the prepared statement Schultz laid out the order of public events: Klein was placed on paid administrative leave on April 19 pending an investigation regarding complaints about him. The investigation was completed and a report delivered to Klein on May 23. Klein’s attorney contacted the city administrator Judy Weyrens on May 30 and informed her of his intent to resign his position as police chief and police officer with the city of St. Joseph.
The city administrator received Klein’s letter of resignation on May 31 effective immediately. The final action was the council’s acceptance of the resignation June 4. Klein was not in attendance at the meeting nor was his attorney.
In the prepared statement Schultz did state the city will be taking several actions to address areas of concern raised by the complaint and the subsequent investigation. The actions include workplace harassment training for staff, whistle blower and retaliation policy, and implementation of a police audit system to ensure processes and procedures are being followed.
Schultz said the acceptance of the resignation made it possible to begin the search for Klein’s replacement as soon as possible. He went on to say the police department had borne this ordeal well and had carried on with their duties of serving and protecting the city in a professional manner.
Following the reading of the statement, the council adjourned.
City administrator Judy Weyrens clarified the city already has in place requirements for harassment training and a whistle blower and retaliation policy as well as a large book of policies and procedures for police officers. What is a work in progress at the present moment is the audit system to ensure policies are being followed correctly.
A new ordinance
The Council also authorized a new ordinance prohibiting the distribution of handbills on private property unless placed in a container or given directly to the property owner. The problem presently is items such as weekly shoppers, and other advertising handbills are often simply thrown in driveways and then become soiled and useless litter and trash. The ordinance specifically exempts newspapers mail, and other materials property owners might subscribe to and pay for.
The council discussed the issue at some length. Council member Bob Loso said the hand bills are a nuisance but did not think simply legislating on the issue would go very far in addressing the problem.
“I think it is an unenforceable ordinance, ” Loso said. “It looks fine on paper, but when it comes down to reality, I don’t think it can be enforced. I think our police officers are going to have a lot better things to do than track down a carrier.”
Distribution of such handbills and advertising shoppers by throwing them on the driveways would be a petty misdemeanor and could eventually result in legal action and a fine by the city.
The council passed the ordinance by a vote of 3-1 with Loso voting no.
Other items of interest
The council swore in its newest member, Anne Buckvold, who will fill the council seat vacated by Matt Killam who resigned at the end of April. Buckvold’s seat is up for election in November and Buckvold has indicated she intends to run to hold that seat for a full term.
The council held a public hearing on vacating a drainage and utility easement in order to combine lots 10 and 11 in Block 3 of the Country Manor Campus. The various utility companies have no objection to the combining of lots and see no problems with easements according to City Administrator Judy Weyrens. With that, the council closed the public hearing and approved the resolution 2018-025.
The council also received the results of a debt-management study undertaken by Northland Securities. Tammy Omdal presented the information giving the city high marks for its management of debt.
City Engineer Randy Sabartz requested the council authorize the execution of a service agreement allowing for the survey and platting work to begin for the new industrial park. The city has been working with the Department of Employment and Economic Development to secure the funding in the form of a grant that will be authorized this fall. Construction on the project is slated to begin this fall and getting the survey and platting work done will allow for faster execution once the shovel work begins. The council authorized the agreement.