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Menahga Council moves ahead with work sessions

Menahga city department heads made their objections known regarding the council’s recent decision to hold a monthly work session with the full council. Previously, two council members met with department heads in committee meetings.

In a letter to the council, Menahga Police Chief Adam Gunderson wrote that “you failed to ask the department heads what works best for them” and expressed that he felt committees were ideal.

Menahga Fire Chief Dave Kicker, Public Works Supervisor Ron Yliniemi and Liquor Store Manager Renata Parks also asked the council to reconsider their decision. Parks wrote that committees are “a better use of everyone’s time and help keep costs down.” Kicker agreed, writing that “committees will help us run more efficiently and be cost effective for the city.”

Mayor Joan Liimatta said she hadn’t changed her mind. “I think we were pretty clear on why we wanted the work sessions,” citing a lack of communication from committee members.

Council member Art Huebner said the problem was Liimatta’s mistrust of her fellow council members.

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Liimatta reiterated that she wants the full council to hear discussions and ask questions at work sessions. “Committees didn’t work,” she said.

Kicker and Parks noted that there haven’t been any department committee meetings this year.

Council member Tim Ellingson agreed with Liimatta that “a lot can get lost in translation” from a committee to the council.

Huebner pointed out it will be more costly to pay the full council for a work session compared to committee meetings.

Kicker added he wants to get paid for attending every special, regular and work session, like council members do.

Council members Robyn Keranen and Karol Andreasen said the department heads’ request should be honored.

Liimatta tabled discussion, promising to revert to committee, if need be, after trying work sessions for six months.

The August work session is slated for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27.

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City attorney warning

City attorney Tom Winters expressed his concerns about the council.

“First of all, in open meetings, we cannot discuss employees’ credentials or performance. Any sort of naming employees or talking about what they did or did not do should be done in a closed meeting,” he said.

“Secondly, the blame, the throwing under the bus, the pettiness, it really has to stop,” he continued. “It really opens the city up to a lot of legal ramifications if that keeps up.”

Winters said the city could potentially be sued for libel, Open Meetings Law violations and others.

“City councils may disagree, but it can’t get personal,” he said.

Winters claimed letters from former employees submitted to the city council at a July 26 special meeting should not have been made public because there is no “public input” portion at a special meeting. There has to be strict adherence to a special meeting’s agenda, he said.

He reiterated that there is contention within the council, yet “it’s a group of five members. No one member has any more or less power than the others. They should work together on decisions and majority rules.”

No member should speak on behalf of the council unless the entire council agrees, Winter said.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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