I attended the Crystal City Council work session and council meeting on December 17, 2013.
There were two items on the agenda for the work session.
The first was an update from the West Metro fire chief on how the department has been performing this year. Overall the department is expected to come in very close to their budget for the year. They are over budget in a few accounts, but under in others, which should balance out at the end of the year. West Metro is also in the process of hiring two new full time employees. They expect to make job offers in the next week or so. This has been a transitional year for West Metro as they hired a new Chief this year.
The second item was an update on Joint Water Commissions projects, including a 2 year project to replace a water main. That work will begin next year and will mean that portions of County Road 9 in Robbinsdale and Crystal will be closed as the work moves forward over the next 2 years.
I expected a relatively calm and non-controversial meeting based on the agenda, but I was wrong about that.
Apparently the Minneapolis based group Communities United Against Police Brutality is continuing their witch hunt in Crystal, and have decided that Council Member Julie Deshler and City Manager Anne Norris are their current targets.
I should note there is no allegation of any police brutality in Crystal. This all stems from the old axe they have to grind with the Police Chief. If you want the recap, start here and follow the links back.
CUAPB had two people present for open forum last night. One accused council member Deshler of an illegal conflict of interest. The other accused the city of having an illegal sweetheart contract with the city manager.
The complaint against Deshler stems from the fact that she works for a company that provides uniforms, and the Crystal Police Department purchases uniforms from that company.
They have no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Deshler or the City, but then again, that is CUAPB’s MO. They throw out vague accusations based on half-truths and wild assumptions, and then just yell really loud about it.
Deshler’s employment at the uniform company pre-dates her election and has never been a secret (it is part of her official city bio). There is no contract requiring anyone in Crystal to purchase anything from Deshler’s employer.
Not content to impugn Deshler’s character merely by implying she is illegally pocketing taxpayer cash (or whatever their claim is), the CUAPB rep also claimed that Deshler is a racist, based on comments that someone allegedly overheard her say once, or something. It’s clear the kitchen sink approach is being employed here.
City Manager Contract
Next, a CUAPB rep from Minneapolis presented the council with her “analysis” of the City Manager’s contract.
The bottom line is that in the opinion of a non-resident of Crystal, who is neither a lawyer nor an elected official with responsibility and/or experience hiring city managers, the contract the city has with the city manager is a sweetheart deal and another sign of corruption.
She did explain that, as she sometimes shops in Crystal, she feels entitled to, and apparently qualified to, weigh in on the contract.
I don’t know if the city manager’s contract is unnecessarily tilted in her favor. There are a few provisions that make me lift an eyebrow. However, I haven’t done research into customary contracts for city managers. Without that comparison, it’s impossible to say whether the contract Crystal has with their manager is typical.
The CUAPB people didn’t perform that analysis either. Instead they performed a half-baked comparison of the Crystal City Manager to the Mayor of Minneapolis, an utterly irrelevant comparison.
I would like to see the city council undertake a review of the manager’s contract in the future, as I believe that it is a good practice. All contracts should be reviewed periodically to ensure they are mutually beneficial and in line with current expectations.
I will encourage the mayor and the city council to review the city manager’s contract in detail before the next renewal period in 2015.
I do not, however, support this witch hunt of the Crystal city manager by people from outside the city and/or the relatives of city employees who are currently on a disciplinary process.
After the two women had accused a city council member of being a racist and a cheat, and then accused the city manager and city of entering into a sweetheart deal, Council Member Deshler attempted to read a statement clarifying some facts and rebutting the baseless allegations against her.
During this process the two woman (and a man that was with them) heckled Deshler and shouted things like “you lie!” at her.
I was sitting by them, and could not hear Deshler’s statement. I first asked them to be quiet. They said they would not be.
I then “shushed” them. They told me to “knock it off.”
I then pointedly told them to shut up, because I was trying to listen. At this point the police chief got up to calm things down, which was a good move. She asked everyone to be quiet.
Deshler continued her statement, until the Minneapolis resident shouted “you’re a liar and you’re looking at a lawsuit!” to which the man with her added “yeah that’s a libel!”
At this point the assistant police chief got up and informed the people that if they could not behave they would have to leave. They left a few minutes after Deshler finished her statement.
The (relatively) boring part
Now that the agitators were gone, the regular meeting could proceed. The council appointed two new members to the Parks & Recreation Commission, approved the two items that were forwarded by the planning commission, and authorized the issuance of bonds related to the Cavanagh Apartments Project (this was expected).
The meeting then adjourned.