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Akeley citizens voice opinions on personnel dispute

A dispute between Akeley maintenance personnel drew a large audience at the council meeting this month, with efforts to mitigate the disagreement proving futile - so far.

A dispute between Akeley maintenance personnel drew a large audience at the council meeting this month, with efforts to mitigate the disagreement proving futile - so far.

The council convened a special meeting Oct. 3 for employee review, following a recommendation from maintenance supervisor Frank Thelin to terminate Greg Everett, a part-time maintenance worker for the city.

In a memo to the council in September, which was not made public until the meeting, Thelin called for Everett's termination based on Everett's unwillingness to complete time cards, scheduling issues and refusal to return keys, due to an unrelated security issue.

Thelin documented several discussions with Everett regarding completion of timecards, including confrontations where Thelin alleges Everett "blew up."

The state had cited the city for inadequate timecard records, which prompted Thelin's request.

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In a taped conversation in city hall in mid-August, Everett reportedly showed "extreme insubordination," referring to Thelin as "the dog."

The recording was played at the special meeting, with both parties asked by council members if they could continue to work with the other.

Both responded "no."

A resignation from Everett appeared imminent. But at the regular meeting, Everett said he'd decided "not to resign, to give up, after thinking it over.

"As an eight-year employee of the city, I've gotten along with the council and worked with Tony (Poncelet, former maintenance supervisor) without an argument," Everett said. "I think the council should think it over before taking action."

About 30 people arrived at the meeting to complain on a variety of issues, ostensibly in support of Everett.

Some in the audience addressed maintenance issues, others questioned lack of enforcement of city ordinances.

"Nothing is being enforced in this town," audience member Cleo Lanning stated, citing delinquent water and sewer bills, unleashed and unlicensed dogs and garbage in back yards.

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Acting mayor Brian Hitchcock indicated water and sewer issues have been addressed. Police chief Eric Klein said citations are written, fines paid.

Stacy Moore told the council her dachshund was attacked by a Rottweiler, her dog having to be put down.

She commended Klein's response, but noted, "This could have been a child, or my face."

Roxanne Ackerman wanted to know when alleys would be graded. Thelin explained manhole covers preclude this in some instances.

Alf Staffenhagen pointed out sidewalks on 64 require maintenance.

"You were elected to be caretakers," he reprimanded the council. "The streets are the worst I've seen since 1983."

Several others cited maintenance issues, Marilyn Ferrie stating roads aren't plowed in a timely fashion in the winter.

"I've got to go by boat to get the mail," another resident remarked.

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"There are holes in the road that when hit at the speed limit will throw tires out of line," Frank Lamb commented.

He also objected to the meeting being held when he was unable to attend.

Lamb commended Everett's work at the park, noting the city would be in a precarious position from a maintenance perspective "if something happened to Frank."

"We're paying twice the taxes we were four years ago and nothing is getting done," Deb Kruse told the council. She said high water on streets forced her to park in a church parking lot. "We're being told this is not a priority."

"This sounds like a witch hunt," council member Cliff Johnson remarked.

"We'd like to see roads maintained to get to and from work," Ferrie said, adding, "So we can continue to pay taxes."

Johnson explained the city is in debt, with budgetary measures being taken to correct this.

"Why isn't this reported? Kruse asked.

Another resident pointed out taxes are up, but maintenance work on roads is not being done, making travel "to purchase products from the last remaining businesses" difficult.

Council members Johnson and Hitchcock showed support for working out an agreement.

"It all began with Greg's refusal to fill out timecards properly," Johnson said.

"I think they are both good workers," Hitchcock remarked.

Lanning suggested the parties "work it out" with acting mayor Hitchcock as a moderator.

Lamb agreed and made a motion directing the two to "work out their problems."

Eric Sjolin voted in opposition to the motion, explaining after the meeting, it was a show of support for Thelin.

The meeting was postponed at Thelin's request, however, with another scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.

Johnson will act as moderator, due to a conflict in Hitchcock's schedule, with the police chief on site.

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