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Huebner to be censured – again

At the May 31 meeting, the council held a public hearing to determine which actions to take, if any, against Huebner regarding complaints made on April 12 and April 15.

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Menahga City Hall
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise
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The Menahga City Council found one of its members – Art Huebner – violated the code of conduct.

The council censured Huebner at last month’s meeting, based on his misconduct between Oct. 2021 and March 2022.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council held a public hearing to determine which actions to take, if any, against Huebner regarding complaints made on April 12 and April 15.

He opted to have the hearing open to the public.

Meanwhile, legal fees resulting from complaints about Huebner’s behavior continue to mount.

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Interim City Administrator Betty Thomsen reported that $7,965 of a $15,396 bill from Flaherty & Hood, PA stem from allegations against Huebner. An allegation against Mayor Liz Olson cost the city $180, and the remaining $6,013 relates to union negotiations.

The council first held preliminary consideration of the latest allegations on May 9. At that time, they determined the claims were sufficient claims of misconduct. Per instructions from legal counsel, they deemed the allegations were “factual,” “sufficient” and “lodged in good faith, not for impermissible purposes, such as delay.”

After reviewing the code of conduct and statement of values at the May 31 hearing, Olson said the complaint alleges Huebner’s used his size, power and social media to “harass and scare” city staff. He is also accused of telling city staff they don’t know how to do their jobs and “obstructing daily operation of the city” via micromanaging.

The complaints include 61 attachments of email correspondence.

“This is getting repetitious, isn’t it? It comes up a lot. So censure, again?” asked council member Dan Warmbold.

Council member Durwin Tomperi said, based on the evidence, there is sufficient claim of violation of code of conduct.

On a 3-1-1 vote, the council determined that Huebner engaged in inappropriate conduct as a councilor and that, as a result, he should be censured again. Council member Robyn Keranen abstained, while Huebner was opposed.

When given the opportunity to respond, Huebner said, “I have nothing to say at this particular point. I’ll take it up later.”

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Keranen said, “It is legit,” but she felt “lost” because only Huebner’s emails were provided in the complaint. “Sometimes there’s triggered responses to correspondence. I know some of his concerns are legit. Some of his responses appear a little harsh, but I feel like I’m not getting the whole story,” she said.

Legal counsel will draw up the resolution of censure.

As a result of the council’s censure in May, Huebner is prohibited from any city committee, liaison or representative role. He is also directed to not make any communication as a city council member directly with city employees, city elected officials or third parties that violate the city’s statement of values and its code of conduct.

Regarding the attorney fees, Huebner said, “You realize you’ve spent almost $8,000 on an issue or process that isn’t supported by statute?”

Olson said, “Well, that would be your opinion.”

“No, I was advised to say that,” Huebner said.

Keranen asked if all complaints must go to the attorney, or if “a round table meeting” could be held where the complaints are aired. “And just spit it out and be done.”

Thomsen replied, “When a complaint is filed, it has to be dealt with. And since there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of respect shown for the position of the city administrator here and accusation that she doesn’t know what she's talking about. My job is to protect the city. I have rights, too. So when I get a complaint, it goes to them (the attorney). We follow their guidance so we are not overstepping our bounds.”

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Related Topics: MENAHGA CITY COUNCIL
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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