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Akeley employees abruptly resign

Akeley's clerk-treasurer and part-time clerk assistant have resigned following a special council meeting Tuesday night for an "employee performance review."

Denise Rittgers and Susan Walter left letters of resignation and office keys with maintenance supervisor Frank Thelin Wednesday morning prior to business hours.

Rittgers met in a closed meeting for about 45 minutes with council members Trygve Karl, Terry Chalich, Troy Hegg and mayor Jennifer Mitchell to "identify areas of concern," Mitchell said after re-opening the meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting, she said, was not disciplinary but an "action plan" was discussed, including expectations for the employee.

At that point, a motion was made to "realign" weekly work hours. Rittgers' to be trimmed from 36 to 24 and Walter's to be increased from 10 to 22.

Walter's hours were trimmed from 20 to 10 hours a week a year ago.

A second motion called for a review of Rittgers in January and a monthly evaluation by a commissioner.

Rittgers said during the closed meeting, a member of the council made accusations regarding her interaction with the public. Council members, she said, offered no support.

After the meeting, Mitchell said the shift of hours was to maximize cross training of the two and to "reduce the stress Denise faced" as a single person in the office, adding support to the position.

Wednesday, Walter explained the cut in her hours had precluded time needed for cross training. "Normally, we don't work in tandem," she said.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, Walter said she'd agreed to work additional hours on a three-week interim but had not been consulted on the increased hours on a long-term basis. Walter, who assists her husband, Jim, with his business, did not want additional hours.

She commended Rittgers' professional work ethic.

"She's made this an exemplary office," Walter said. "She was great to work with. This will be a detriment to the city."

Rittgers has been employed by the city for six years.

In Walter's letter of resignation, she stated, "The current workplace environment, for several reasons, is becoming more stressful and somewhat poisonous, based on recent behaviors of various citizens and the council."

Wednesday, Mitchell said she was consulting with the League of Minnesota Cities on replacing the two.

A sign was posted on city hall this week stating it was "temporarily closed."

"Please drop off all deliveries at the liquor store. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience," the sign states. "If you need immediate assistance, please contact mayor Jennifer Mitchell at 255-0543, council member Troy Hegg at 252-1511 or Terry Chalich at 252-2632.

"Please submit water bills to the bank."