LETTER: Menahga City Council chaos
The following is a letter to the editor submitted to the Park Rapids Enterprise by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Park Rapids Enterprise. To submit a letter, email email@example.com or mail it to Park Rapids Enterprise, 1011 1st. ST. E., Suite 6, Park Rapids, MN 56470.
How much more and at what cost to you, the taxpayers, can the city of Menahga continue in the vein that it currently is, with the amount of obstruction that is dished out at every council meeting?
At the Feb. 1 city council meeting, Art Huebner was informed that he is to pay for a phone call that he made to the city attorney at a cost of $90. Mayor Liz Olson reminded the council of a previous motion on Jan. 12, 2021 stating who has the authority to contact the city attorney. In passing that motion, the city was set up to handle calls to legal counsel as other cities do.
City administrators and/or mayors typically are given this authorization. The administrator is the one that is supposed to be aware of what is transpiring within the city and if every council member, city employee or citizen, took it upon themselves to call legal counsel, well, I think you can surmise the chaos that could set in, not to mention the cost.
For criminal cases, the police chief confers with legal counsel.
During his tirade, Mr. Huebner alleged that the League of Minnesota Cities told him to call the attorney and he was doing what he was told to do.
I think that the rest of the story should be brought forth. Immediately after Mr. Huebner’s call to the attorney, the attorney called me to ascertain if the city had authorized individuals to contact legal counsel, as the attorney stated he does not typically deal with individual councilmembers. I informed him of the motion that had been passed.
As the attorney was not aware of this, he stated that he did listen to Mr. Huebner and tried to keep it brief, but the attorney wanted me to know the content of the conversation because administrators are always made aware of situations in the city as part of their job.
The $90 bill was for a half-hour and that is the amount of time that the attorney indicated Mr. Huebner had been on the phone.
Mr. Huebner said he refuses to pay the $90 and he will fight it.
At the Feb. 1 meeting, a brief, very brief report was made about the cost of the Menahga police department as compared to three other cities. It was reported that the Menahga budget was $382,209.59 and if you subtracted the wages/benefits the cost to operate the police department was $76,558 compared to Foston ($365,019), Bagley ($399,538) and Glyndon ($522,420.75).
What was conveniently, in my opinion, missing in the report presented was the cost of wages/benefits for the other cities. News flash: wages/benefits are a cost of operating the department and if you subtract the two figures given for Menahga there is a difference of $304,651.59 – which is the cost of the wages/benefits for the chief, and two full-time officers. (Part-time are called in as needed.) So you can easily divide the $304.615.59 by three and come to your conclusion, but keep in mind that your officers are not paid the same hourly rate and one individual receives more than one-third of the $304,615.59 in wages/benefits.
The S&P report received another outburst from Mr. Huebner, and remember, in his post on social media he was blaming the mayor and one councilmember for this and further stated that the 90-day time period was almost over and it was their fault.
So, on Monday, when the discussion should have been on how the city was going to try to rectify the situation, because of Mr. Huebner’s behavior, the focus was taken away from the importance of this report and focused on Mr. Huebner as he attempted yet another time that evening to grandstand.
This S&P report is a big deal and it should not be taken lightly. For you, the taxpayers, this S&P report will have a financial bearing on your pocketbooks if your bond rating is lowered, as borrowing money will come at high price, if you can even get it, or future projects will have to be funded through user fees, which, unfortunately you will all bear.
Mr. Huebner was right, I did leave city hall in a state of frustration and said things that I should not have said had I not let him get to me. But I take ownership for that and if an individual should not be in a position because of an outburst, then the question begs to be asked, should you, Mr. Huebner, be in the council position that you currently hold?