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Brainerd City Council: Legal opinion sought for letter reading

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Whether letters, including those that could be inflammatory, should be read at the Brainerd City Council or just accepted was back on the Brainerd City Council agenda Tuesday.

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The personnel and finance committee was against altering a previous recommendation generally against reading letters that come to the council at the last minute.

Council member Kelly Bevans disagreed. “I don’t think it’s very fair for the person who couldn’t be here,” Bevans said.

Council President Mary Koep suggested the committee get the city attorney’s opinion.

“I have a real concern that wouldn’t stand up if challenged,” Koep said. “We do have something called free speech.”

The letter issue first arose before the Brainerd City Council on Jan. 17 when a letter called for an investigation relating to ongoing airport commission turmoil.

Koep said the city does deal with situations that may be uncomfortable. Council member Lucy Nesheim said she hoped the president would have the sense to say if a letter would be read or not on a potentially slanderous matter. Other council members should challenge the president if that situation arose, Nesheim said.

Koep said the council president really has no more power than anyone else so a legal opinion was needed.

In other business, the council:

Presented the 18th consecutive certificate for Excellence in Financial Reporting to Theresa Goble, city finance director, for the year ending 2010.

The Government Finance Officers Association reported the certificate is the highest form of recognition in the area of government accounting and financial reporting.

“She does one excellent job,” said Mayor James Wallin. “Thank you for a job well done.”

Goble accepted on behalf of the city council, departments, city administrator and accounting staff.

Heard an update from Don Samuelson and Pam Nelson at the Crow Wing County Historical Museum for the council’s “Showcasing Brainerd” segment. The museum was created in 1923 by Leon Lum and was first in the old courthouse, which is now the Kingwood Apartments.

Nelson said they do accept display donations of items unique to Crow Wing County. Because of space constraints, they typically keep just one or two similar items. The museum has expanded displays and cut into its storage space. Nelson said they are looking for additional storage options and welcome input on that subject.

Accepted, with regret, a letter of announcing the retirement of Police Officer Scott Stanfield, a 24-year veteran with the department. Stanfield reported he was retiring for medical reasons. The council directed the Civil Service Commission to certify the next three candidates on the police officer’s eligibility list.

Learned a potential new owner for John’s Tavern on Oak Street dropped a proposal to obtain a full liquor license for the neighborhood establishment.

Met in closed session for labor negotiations before reopening and adopting a resolution accepting a settlement with the Teamster’s Local No. 346 Union, or police supervisors.

The monthly salaries and hourly wages were set at $5,944.86 per month or $34.30 per hour for the police captain and $5,188.67 per monthly or $29.94 per hour for the police sergeant after July 1, 2011. As of Jan. 1, the wages changed to $6,063.76 per month or $34,98 per hour for the captain and $5,292.44 per month or $30.53 per hour for the sergeant.

With longevity, the council approved a 2 percent of annual wage after eight years of service, 3 percent after 12 years, 4 percent after 16 years and 5 percent after 20 years for longevity pay classifications.

The council approved an additional 55 cents per hour for each hour worked between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Approved the first reading of a proposed ordinance rezoning South Ninth Street from low density single family residential R-1 to higher density R-3. The area is across the street from the Washington Educational Service Building.

Heard Wallin read from a clipping from This Was Brainerd in the Dispatch regarding a particularly peaceful Brainerd council meeting 100 years ago.

Council members Bob Olson and Kevin Goedker were absent.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter @Dispatchbizbuzz.

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Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852
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