Menahga council declines to reprimand administrator

Miscommunication between the city administrator and the mayor of Menahga has resulted in the filing of a grievance form, reprimands and more miscommunication.

Miscommunication between the city administrator and the mayor of Menahga has resulted in the filing of a grievance form, reprimands and more miscommunication.

The water and sewer committee met Monday to explain the reasons for one of the issues surrounding city administrator Teri Osterman's reprimands and disciplinary actions.

"This is kind of going out of shape," Wayne Rost, water and sewer department supervisor told the committee.

Rost read a statement to the committee that said the miscommunication about scheduling a committee meeting between he and Osterman has been resolved.

Osterman and Rost were under the impression that they had to wait for a letter from Ulteig Engineers detailing the facility background and a general quote for renovations of the existing filter media.


The letter arrived Oct. 7, which was the day Osterman had to leave for Washington for a doctor's appointment. She didn't return until Oct. 16.

Before she left, she advised Rost to schedule a meeting, which he did, for Oct. 14.

Outgoing mayor Donna Anderson, who's also on the committee, repeatedly mentioned her concerns and the importance of getting together at the committee level in order to solve the water problems of the city.

"You can't expect miracles, she's not going to have a committee meeting when she's got other issues going on," committee member Loren Tolkkinen told Anderson. "Wayne has a statement to us explaining that it was a misunderstanding between the two of them, let's accept that and let's move on."

The committee, in addition to two council members sitting in the audience, agreed with Anderson that regular committee meetings are crucial. However, they also thought this issue shouldn't have gotten as far as it did.

"Rather than make it a public spectacle and special meeting with reprimands, there is a way to communicate those misunderstandings and deal with them internally rather than the way it was handled," council member Kim Rasmussen told Anderson.

By the end of Monday's meeting, the committee agreed no reprimands were necessary against Osterman for failing to schedule a committee meeting.

The committee also agreed that quarterly water and sewer committee meetings should be scheduled. A recommendation will be made to the council at the December meeting.


Closing City Hall

On Wednesday, Nov. 12, Osterman left City Hall to oversee the mayoral race recount at the Wadena County Courthouse as the city's election official. She locked City Hall for approximately three hours until the recount was complete.

"We have nothing in policy about closing the office," Osterman told the Enterprise. "For several reasons, I've had to lock the door to go over and correct problems. It's not like it never happened before."

Osterman wasn't notified of Anderson's concerns about closing City Hall until the day of a special meeting held to discuss reprimands against Osterman Monday, Nov. 17.

Anderson stopped by City Hall the day of the recount to notify Osterman of her reprimands, but gave her no specific reasons for disciplinary actions.

Anderson's letter to Osterman stated the need for a special closed meeting to discuss "reprimands that I feel need to be in place on several issues and to finish your evaluation."

It also emphasized that the meeting was "closed."

Osterman said she agreed to attend the meeting, wondering why there were reprimands against her.


Once she found out that it was because she closed City Hall on the day of the recount and because a water and sewer committee meeting wasn't scheduled, she said "I have nothing to hide" and opened the meeting to the public.

"I had no idea what I was going to deal with," Osterman said. "(Council members) met during a closed meeting with their attorney and I was called in 30 minutes later and she read the charges. At that time I said I'd like to open this to public."

The council members saw no reason for reprimands against Osterman for closing City Hall.

During the special meeting, the council agreed the city doesn't have a policy that prevents closure of City Hall for special circumstances.


Osterman filed a grievance form against Anderson and council member Dennis Komulainen Monday, Nov. 17, for the performance review process the council gave the city administrator in September.

"It was a personal attack on me and other council members rather than a review," Osterman said.

She added that her review was used to discuss issues under the disguise of a closed meeting.


According to the grievance form, "Donna Anderson informed me that there was nothing good on her review of me. Dennis Komulainen stepped over the line in attacking any sick leave I endured during my cancer illness when he was not a member of the city council."

Osterman said they also used the performance review time to attack other current and past council members.

As of Nov. 24, Osterman said the grievance issue will be put on hold until the council does more research.

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