City Council requests a special audit of City Hall

IMG_3712.JPG IMG_3710.JPG
I didn’t stay for the final vote but I assume the City Council passed a resolution last night that asks the MN State Auditor to “examine the books, records, accounts and affairs of the City of Northfield…” All of this, of course, is related to the criminal investigation of the city administrator by the police chief that came to light last week.

City Attorney Maren Swanson and special legal counsel Cliff Greene (right photo) will evidently take a few weeks to interview people and then recommend to the Council which, if any, issues should be brought to the attention of the State Auditor’s office. That investigation (inquiry) would then likely begin after Labor Day.

Update 6:45 am: Dusty Budd on KYMN news this morning confirmed the above. Plus, Maren Swanson was designated as the media contact for all matters related to this investigation.

16 thoughts on “City Council requests a special audit of City Hall”

  1. I was there from the beginning and through to the end. Drama and intrigue were present far more than Griff’s brief recap allows. He came in after the first big bomb blast – a confrontation between The Mayor and several Council members resulting in the Mayor being kept from reading his Agenda Item Background Statement. He also left very early in the proceedings.

    Time constraints right now keep me from framing a complete Opinion Piece here as any report on the process. I may be able to write more – I may deem it inappropriate to write from such a limited perspective. I will tell you that the council voted to individually be mute on this issue and defer all public comment to Maren Swanson, the City Attorney.

    This appears to be HEAVY… far to complicated and serious an issue IMHO to comment here without greater thought, and information gathering. My personal opinion s that there’s so much unsaid and innuendo, that only harm can come from a poorly framed blog probe for opinion.

    Suffice to say, Griff’s “guess” is for now accurate (although incomplete – and there’s no criticism attached there…) how could one man cover 3 vitally important meetings (Council – KEY – LWV ) being held simultaneously.

    He wrote: (edited for space by me)

    City Attorney and special legal counsel Greene will take a few weeks to interview people… (should say: Council members, to determine the subjects they’d like probed) and then recommend to the Council which, if any, issues should be brought to the attention of the State Auditor’s office. That investigation (inquiry) would then likely begin after Labor Day.

    What is bafflingly unclear is why, if there’s undisclosed dissension between the Mayor and most of the Council ( and it appears to be so) and if the Mayor is viewed by some Council members to be on a self serving quest of some sort… why did the Council after shutting him down, vote to go forward with his process?

    The Mayor brought this item forward. My opinion is it goes deeper than the recent flap over Gary Smith’s Press Conference, action considered by the City Administrator and the counter action taken by Smith. FAR DEEPER…

    Perhaps if the Council had not used some political maneuvers to stifle Lansing’s opening remarks, we’ be able to make a better guess as to what’s going on.

    I’ve alluded too much, with too little thought attached, and these are mere facts as to what I saw and heard.. mixed with a little puzzlement.

    This thread might be called “Games Big People Play”

    vs

    PS: I did speak and begged for some clarity

  2. RE: Griff’s question concerning video replay. It was recorded on video tape and should be in the regular mix of cable-casts. I’d like to make a correction – or at least clarify a remark from my previous recounting. End of the first paragraph, it may seem to some readers that I was reporting the Mayor left the meeting early. My intent was to say that Griff left early.

  3. Today’s Nfld News: Council asks state for probe of city’s operations

    Though councilors didn’t discuss what issues they want brought before the auditor, they were clearly irritated with Mayor Lee Lansing from the meeting’s outset. Councilor Noah Cashman quickly squashed Lansing’s attempt to read a three-page written statement calling for the review. And later, councilors were visibly upset when Lansing seemed to point to the chief’s investigation of City Administrator Al Roder as a focal point of the review. “(That issue) is a small portion of what we’re looking at,” Councilor Scott Davis said.

  4. I went to the meeting as well. I concur with Victor’s comments (wow! never thought I’d say that, lol), especially about the sense that this runs far deeper than the current Smith-Roder thing.

    The plan is for Maren to bring the proposed issues to an open council meeting August 20 for approval to send to the AG. Until then we can just speculate as to the reasons for the investigation request.

    It should also be noted that a packet (delivered Friday to councilors) was mentioned in the meeting that contains some of the pertinant issues. Someone (Griff?) should probably make a Data Practices request for the release of those documents. Based on what I heard in the meeting, however, I expect the request would be denied under a data privacy exception for personal data.

    I also think it is telling that the special legal council said this kind of request for investigation is extremely rare and the state statute allowing it is hardly ever used.

  5. Alex wrote:

    Someone (Griff?) should probably make a Data Practices request for the release of those documents.

    Oooh, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to learn how to do this! Ya think they’d honor a request from a citizen journalist/blogger?

  6. I stopped down at City Hall and got the Data Request Form from Deb Little in Administration. It’s not currently available on the City’s website. I was tempted to raise the issue of the $85,000 we citizens ponied up for the new web site but, you’ll be proud to know, I restrained myself.

    I filled it out and faxed it back to her at 12:25 pm. Here’s what it looks like:

    img_3719.JPG

  7. Thanks for the nudge, Alex. I got this email back from Deb Little, City Clerk:

    Griff, I received your request and have forwarded it to the City Attorney. The requested material is currently being reviewed to redact non public information and will be made available as soon as possible. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me.

  8. Griff, can you find out more about the conditions of Smith’s voluntary medical leave of absence?

    If the leave is in fact voluntary, couldn’t he just return to his job when his medical condition abates?

Leave a Reply