ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Crosby Mayor Hunter resigns, cites failing health as reason

“It has nothing to do with the town and nothing to do with the people. It’s strictly to do with my health.”

James Hunter
James Hunter

Crosby Mayor James Hunter resigned his position, effective July 26, citing stage 5 kidney failure as the reason.

“I couldn’t do the job 100%, and with my kidneys as bad as they are, it’s really hard to attend some of the meetings,” Hunter said during a phone interview Tuesday, Aug. 3. “I love this town, and I didn’t want to do a half-ass job.”

City Administrator Matthew Hill announced during a special city council meeting Monday, Aug. 2, he received Hunter’s resignation letter that day. The letter was dated July 27 and reads:

“It is with deep regret that I am turning in my resignation as the Mayor of Crosby effective July 26, 2021. As my health declines, I am not able to give the community 100% in which it deserves. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve as the Mayor of Crosby. I would like to thank those who voted for me and put their trust in me to make Crosby a better place. I fought the good fight and gave it my all. You are in good hands with the current administration and wish you all the best of luck in the future of Crosby.”

Hunter said during the phone interview his kidneys are working at less than 10%, which has made attending regular meetings difficult.

ADVERTISEMENT

“That’s all it really boils down to,” Hunter said. “It has nothing to do with the town and nothing to do with the people. It’s strictly to do with my health.”

Hunter was first elected mayor in 2016 and subsequently resigned in Aug. 2017, following various criminal charges. All charges were either dismissed, or Hunter was acquitted by a jury. Hunter has since filed a defamation lawsuit against the city of Crosby, stating he lost his reputation and his elected office and spent over two years charged with serious crimes as a result of the actions of city officials. The Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed 29 of the 31 claims in the defamation lawsuit in May 2021.

RELATED: Court of Appeals dismisses all but 2 allegations in Hunter vs. Crosby case “It's very important to make sure that people are held accountable for their actions. That's kind of a bedrock of the legal system, even if they work in government ... The case is about the former leadership of the Crosby Police Department basically running a rogue operation ..." Hunter's attorney said on the case.
Hunter was reelected to a two-year mayoral term in 2020, beating out three other candidates with 35.29% of votes.

“I wanted to show people I wasn’t a quitter, and then I won. And there was a reason I won,” Hunter said of the decision to run for mayor in 2020. “The good Lord’s been good to me, but there’s not much you can do. When you get sick, you get sick.”

Hunter said he is proud of his time spent as mayor, citing new businesses on Main Street and an ongoing hospital expansion project and signs the city is growing.

“I hope that whoever takes over has the passion and the respect that I do for the community,” he said.

The city council is expected to decide how to proceed with replacing Hunter during a meeting Monday, Aug. 9.

Legal issues

While most of the claims in Hunter’s defamation lawsuit against former Crosby Police Chief Kim Coughlin, former Crosby Lt. Kevin Randolph and the city of Crosby were dismissed, two still remain and were returned to district court.

ADVERTISEMENT

The first allegation is in regards to Coughlin making statements to an individual, after the criminal proceedings were concluded, falsely claiming that Hunter was charged with a crime involving a sexual assault of a family member, the court document stated. The document further stated that this statement is defamation, as Coughlin knew it was not true and said it with the intention of causing harm to his reputation. These statements were made in August and September 2019 and caused actual and obvious harm to Hunter’s reputation, the court ruled.

RELATED: Attorneys argue Crosby mayor’s defamation case in appeals court Each attorney had a chance to argue their case and the Minnesota Court of Appeals has 90 days to make a decision on the lawsuit case filed by Crosby Mayor James Hunter,
The second allegation to go back to district court is when Coughlin and Randolph in 2018 told Hunter’s bank that he had committed a number of serious crimes, including crimes of dishonesty and financial crimes, causing the bank to withdraw a line of credit Hunter used for his business, causing further damage his reputation and his ability to do business.

The case is now in the discovery phase, according to Brainerd Attorney Ed Shaw, who represents Hunter. During this phase, parties exchange information to verify if any is relevant to the case.

Attorney Patrick Collins, who is representing Coughlin, Randolph and the city of Crosby, requested in July an order of protection regarding a John Doe witness, who allegedly claimed he was sexually assaulted by Hunter, who is a relative. The order states the identity of John Doe must be kept sealed during all depositions, hearings, trials or other matters in which the witness is required to provide testimony. The parties and their counsel are forbidden from revealing John Doe’s identity to the public, and Hunter is barred from appearing in person at any deposition, trial, hearing or other matter when John Doe provides testimony. Hunter is to have no contact with the witness, whether it be in person, mail, electronic mail or messaging, through a third party or by other means. The order states that upon its issuance, the defendants’ attorney will reveal the identity of John Dow to Shaw and Hunter.

Shaw said during a phone interview Tuesday he has not yet been told the name of the witness and is not sure whether a witness even exists, and if he does, Shaw said the person was likely prompted by the defense to make the allegations. No sexual assault charges have been filed against Hunter.

“Given what the history of the false statements they’ve made against Mr. Hunter, I’m confident saying they have no credibility, and I’ll take that to the bank because I’ve seen one after another statement that was proven false over the last few years,” Shaw said. “And at some point when people keep making false statements they’re not going to be believed.”

Shaw said he has sent out written discovery questions for the defense to answer and will eventually conduct depositions, meaning he will question relevant witnesses in relation to the defamation lawsuit.

Collins did not return a voicemail requesting comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

ADVERTISEMENT

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
Related Topics: CROSBY
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
What To Read Next
Linsey Strand, Tanya Bergman and Aaron Schmidtbauer are among the 131 nominees.
Thousands expected for annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza Saturday, Jan. 28, on Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake.
Little Falls Flyers Nordic Invitational at Camp Ripley.
Attention teachers: Don't forget to submit your students' weather drawings to the Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 974, Brainerd, MN 56401