Northfield City Councilor Kris Vohs, pissed at some fellow councilors, handles it poorly

Kris Vohs letter to councilors Kris Vohs
This is a PDF of Northfield City Councilor Kris Vohs’ letter to his fellow councilors last week. In it, he addresses issues related to:

  • Inaccuracy of information from citizens
  • Safety Center
  • Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code
  • Business Park Master Plan

The short paragraph at the end addresses his concerns about council relationships:

Bulling [sic] is a big focus among young people now. I don’t think it’s a council we are doing a very good job in this area. We have bordered on bulling at some of our meetings. We call it disrespect and we are setting an example for our young people. This is my opinion.

In Saturday’s Nfld News, he expands on his frustrations with fellow councilors: Vohs fed up with council’s bickering

Vohs, who holds one of the council’s two at-large seats, says that the stress caused by the regular battles between council members is wearing thin and that if they don’t abate he’ll call it quits. “It’s just not worth it,” Vohs said on Thursday after issuing an open letter to his fellow council members.

Vohs said he would have preferred to speak publicly, but recent agenda changes gave him no forum. Now in his third term, Vohs said this council — out of all he has been part of — is the “hardest to work with.” And, he added, “They just don’t like each other.”

Vohs’ vague statement about bullying in a letter and then detailed critical comments to a newspaper reporter seem to me to be a very poor approach to trying to solve relationship problems. 

Whether or not his complaints are justified/accurate, why wouldn’t he bring this up at the end of a council meeting? Why not call individual councilors on the phone or meet with them 1 to 1? 


  1. john george said:

    It would be interesting to know what has transpired up to this point, as far as the relationships between the council members, to precipitate this public response. It seems they all are intelligent, reasonable people. I wonder what effect the fear of open meeting law violations and the fear of being accused of “cronyism” has on our elected officials? Could these laws, enacted to enhance transparency, actually be barriers to open discussion and one-on-one conflict resolution? It would be nice if the council members would chime in on this, but, in light of some of the past experiences about communication within the city government, I admit that I don’t have a lot of hope for that to happen.

    March 14, 2011
  2. Jane Moline said:

    It is unbelievable that a member of the city council that felt bad behavior should be responded to with equally bad behavior (when Lee Lansing was mayor and Al Roder beginning his slide to another job where he would be paid more to leave than to stay) could criticise this city council for any kind of interpersonal inabilities.

    (For anyone not here at the time, citizens were literally reduced to tears and the anger on the city council was palatable–you could feel it when you were in a room with more than two of them–whether they were on the same side or not.) Sounds like sour grapes now that Councilor Vohs is no longer in the majority rubber-stamping city staff decisions.

    In my opinion, John George, it is because the council now is discussing things in public and with transparency and real recognition of open-meeting laws that Chris is upset–sometimes discussions mean that council members do and will disagree. I think the public feels that issues are more fully discussed when there is disagreement–they want to see that all sides of an issue receive a hearing. Democracy is messy.

    I really feel bad that the NDDC keeps getting slammed–they have been a great force in downtown Northfield and stepped in to fill in where the Chamber had not been successful–and they have taken over a number of financial responsibilities that were never anticipated when they were formed, and then done a great job. The NDDC makes Northfield a more attractive place and a better business place for everyone.

    The City, on the other hand, has wasted more than $250,000 (a quarter of a million to you big shots out there) on developing land it does not own. It would be better off spending that money on making the existing businesses more sustainable and attractive (or keeping the library open more hours or beginning a reserve for the future expansion of the sewer plant or other practical uses.)

    It is too bad Councilor Vohs is concerned about the slow-mo on the safety center. But reality is that citizens mostly worry about committing to costs that they cannot afford–regardless of need. I think the city has some work to do to convince the public that any change is ncessary.

    (I completely support the need for a new fire hall–it is not a want but a requirement in order to ensure the ability to respond to emergencies. I just don’t think the rest of Northfield and Dundas have been convinced, yet.)

    March 14, 2011
  3. David Ludescher said:


    It is interesting that you suggest that Vohs should have done a 1 to 1 before speaking out. Do you think that would have worked with your issues with Rejoice!?

    March 14, 2011
  4. john george said:

    Jane- I agree that Democracy is messy, especially when there are opposed sides. I also agree that we are seeing better transparency concerning councilors “feelings” about issues. The issue, IMO, is how to resolve the apparent conflicts. I think there are objective criteria upon which decisions can be made, which, one would hope, could assuage some of the emotions. IMO, this is best accomplished one-on-one. The issue that I raised is whether this would be considered ethical to do. As I’ve said before, common sense sometimes isn’t very common.

    March 14, 2011
  5. Jane Moline said:

    John: One on one is legal as long as they are not using it to circumvent open meeting laws–so I don’t know why that wouldn’t work here–unless Chris (who is a good guy) already tried that.

    I just don’t think a general complaint letter is the right way to address his concerns–he certainly has every right to do it–I just don’t know that it will achieve a satisfactory outcome.

    March 14, 2011
  6. john george said:

    Jane- I don’t know how specific the open meeting laws are, but, in the last few years, it seems that if there is any chance that some accusation could be made against an official, then nothing really gets done. It is hard to be really open with someone when you have a third party observer keeping track of everything that is said. I don’t know how else to prevent accusations.

    As far as the letter itself, I think you are right. It seems to me that this type of letter is almost a desparate effort to get something moving. That is why I thought it would be interesting to know what was tried before it was submitted. Sticky wickets left and right! One consolation, though, is that Northfield is not the only community this size going through upheavals in their councils.

    March 14, 2011
  7. Raymond Daniels said:


    March 14, 2011
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    David, I don’t have a working relationship with anyone at Rejoice! nor at TN.

    Better example: I do have a working relationship with Ross and Tracy so when we get pissed at each other, we meet F2F to resolve it. We don’t blog or comment publicly about each other’s behavior that pisses us off.

    See the difference?

    March 17, 2011
  9. David Ludescher said:


    The question was: Do you think a face-to-face would have worked with Rejoice!? A simple query of Clites, even by e-mail, could have saved a lot of community ill-will.

    March 18, 2011
  10. kiffi summa said:

    Griff and David: Do you think this is different because these are elected officials? Should their discussion about their working relationship be a public discussion?

    Does the fact that Mr. Vohs went to the Newspaper with his letter, before discussing it with his colleagues, make a difference in how it is handled by the rest of the Council ?

    March 18, 2011
  11. David Ludescher said:


    I would need to know more. I don’t understand Vohs’ complaint or its public relevance.

    March 18, 2011
  12. kiffi summa said:

    Well, David… maybe you should have a F2F with Kris…
    Then you might have his concerns, clearly voiced, directly from him, and you wouldn’t have to rely on any other witnesses, opinions, newspaper articles, to form your own understanding…

    March 18, 2011

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