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Huebner refuses to stop unauthorized live streaming

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Menahga City Hall
Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise

The Menahga City Council passed a resolution, drafted by the city attorney, that prohibits electronic recordings by an elected city official where the individual is acting in their capacity as a city official and the recording has not been authorized by the council.

On March 14, council member Art Huebner live streamed the council meeting to his personal Facebook page. He did not have prior council authorization to do so.

The council took up the matter at their March 28 special meeting.

Monday’s resolution explains that such a recording “creates data practices, records retention, employment and other legal liability issues for the city.”

It further said that any city elected official that has electronically recorded any meeting related to city activities must provide the original recording to the city administrator and not retain any copy to ensure compliance with Minnesota data and records laws.

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In addition, the city administrator will submit a draft policy about city officials’ use of technology to the council for review and to be incorporated into the council’s bylaws.

Huebner objected to the resolution, quoting the League of Minnesota Cities Handbook which says, “The public may make a recording of an open meeting if doing so does not have a significantly adverse impact on the order of the meeting.”

“The key word there was ‘public,” Mayor Liz Olson said. “We are not the public. We are the elected officials.”

“Madam mayor, it’s my constitutional right to record this meeting and do what I want with it. It’s the First Amendment,” Huebner said, adding, “I caution this council that anybody voting for this will be complicit in any action that may come out of it.”

The motion passed 3-2, with Huebner and council member Robyn Keranen opposed.

Huebner refused to turn off his recording.

“You need to turn that off now. The council spoke,” Olson said, suggesting they could call law enforcement and have an officer shut down the recording, if necessary.

Huebner said he would not “relinquish my Constitutional rights.”

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Olson called him out of order and recessed the meeting while Interim City Administrator Betty Thomsen contacted the city attorney.

Thomsen reported the attorney advised the council to request Huebner “to duly comply” with the resolution.

“I’m a citizen first, and I was elected to this council,” Huebner said, again refusing to turn off the recording.

“OK, we’ll move forward with the meeting and deal with this in a formal manner at a later date,” Thomsen said.

“Really? Can’t this council insist that he unplugged that machine right now? That’s what our resolution is,” asked Olson.

“Obviously, he’s not going to,” Thomsen said, adding the attorney did not recommend taking more time during the meeting on this issue.

“Madam mayor, does this mean you disrupted the meeting then instead of me?” Huebner said.

“You’re out of order,” Olson said. “I was always told the council polices itself. This is what our council is doing at this point by passing that resolution.”

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Temporary admin supportThe council extended Jensine Kurtti’s contract as a temporary administrative support technician for another three months. Her hourly rate was increased from $14.50 to $19, with no benefits.

It was noted that Kurtti completed a background check on Sept. 29, 2021 after Huebner previously claimed she had not.

Thomsen reported that Kurtti has been invaluable to office staff by sorting papers, conducting research, working on agendas and more.

Holding up photos of cluttered desks in the city office, Thomsen said they are finding invoices and checks in the stacks.

Huebner argued that Kurtti was supposed to “move on down the road” after the city administration was fully staffed. He said if Thomsen knew how to use a computer, there wouldn’t be so much paper.

“I didn’t create this,” Thomsen said of the mess.

The motion passed 3-2, with Huebner and Keranen opposed.

In other business, the council did as follows:

  • Directed Thomsen to contact the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) and schedule a facilitator to guide the council through conflict resolution. At their March 14 meeting, the LMCIT advised the council to resolve the ongoing, internal conflict or face possible restrictions to the city’s insurance coverage.
  • Accepted the $16,328 yearly quote from Johnson Jet-Line Inc. of Kensington, Minn. to clean and inspect approximately 12,560 feet of city sewer line annually. The contract duration is five years.
  • Reestablished the city’s precinct boundaries as the entire area within city limits. Through redistricting, the city of Menahga is within Senate District 5, House District 5A and Congressional District 7. The polling place is city hall.
  • Established the asking price for any remaining lots in the industrial park at 25% of the assessed value, as set by Wadena County. Any deferred special assessments will be charged. Lots must be built on within 18 months of purchase.
  • Donated 34 5-gallon containers of Botanical disinfectant solution to Greenwood Connections. Yliniemi said too much disinfectant was ordered at the start of COVID and it cannot be returned, but it can be donated to a nonprofit.
  • Authorized Northwood Bounds Spirits manager Renata Parks to sign an agreement with Time Music Agency Inc. of Mound, Minn. At a total cost of $2,500, the band “Drink 182” will provide live music for a Menahga Midsummer street dance.
  • Directed Thomsen to research the cost of implementing GPS on all city-owned vehicles, excluding the fire department.
  • Through general consensus, agreed to allow Schaeffer Auto to put their logo on the industrial park sign.
  • Heard a request from Meri Carstensen about holding a farmers’ market on public property in the summer of 2023. She suggested the area by the St. Urho statue.
RELATED STORIES:
Menahga's city engineer put a project out to bid this week without city council authorization, according to public works supervisor Ron Yliniemi.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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