The Menahga City Council voted 4-1 to hire Betty Thomsen as interim city administrator at their Monday, Nov. 8 meeting.

Council member Art Huebner was opposed.

Thomsen has 20 years of experience in city management. She served as Park Rapids’ interim city administrator from Sept. 2020 through mid-January 2021. She was city administrator from Feb. 2000 through Feb. 2004 in Park Rapids and from Dec. 1986 through Feb. 2000 in Minneota, Minn.

Mayor Liz Olson and Durwin Tomperi, meeting as the hiring committee, scored four candidates for the interim position. Tomperi reported that three did not meet the minimum requirements, based on a League of Minnesota Cities rating sheet.

After interviewing Thomsen over the phone, Tomperi said the committee recommends hiring her at $45 per hour, with no benefits, for the position of temporary city administrator-clerk-treasurer.

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Huebner objected to not getting a chance to ask Thomsen questions.

After the meeting, temporary administrative support technician Jensine Kurtti clarified that the hiring committee was put in place at a meeting in early September when Kurtti was hired. “The process of how the administrator’s hire was going to happen was also stated at last Friday’s budget meeting. All the council was there,” she reported.

Intent to terminate Kreklau

According to the minutes of the Oct. 20 meeting, it is the council’s intent to terminate City Administrator Curt Kreklau upon expiration of his veterans' preference timeline or hearings, whichever is later, based upon these six findings:

  • The council has not received any accurate financial data, causing the auditor and the council to work with unreliable numbers. Specifically, a motion was made on Feb. 4 requiring financial data to be provided to the council by Feb. 22. This was not completed and still has not been provided as of the date of the complaint.

  • Minutes are not being provided in a timely manner. To date, the council had not received minutes for July 26, Aug. 2 and Aug. 20 meetings.

  • Agendas are not being provided as per the bylaws, which call for delivery at least six days prior to the meeting.

  • The council asked Kreklau on April 12 to have PMA assist with city investments. This had not been done.

  • The council asked Kreklau on May 10 to have a debt study completed, and that had not been completed.

  • The city of Menahga has had to expend additional dollars in order to complete both a bank reconciliation and an audit for the city, which is the responsibility of the city administrator. More than $35,000 was expended for the 2020 audit, and, to date, another $16,000 expended for forensic auditors, who were unable to reconcile the city’s accounts as of Oct. 20.

GoToMeeting suspension

Huebner asked why GoToMeeting was no longer being used for remote council meetings. The council suspended its use on Oct. 22 – two days after Huebner called a “special meeting” that only he and Keranen were able to attend. Huebner then used GoToMeeting to hold a two-hour “public forum,” in which he spouted numerous allegations against fellow council members.

On Monday, Huebner handed out copies of a Nov. 4 letter he sent to the state auditor, claiming “evidence of malfeasance and misfeasance” on the part of Olson, Tomperi and council member Daniel Warmbold. He also complained of receiving the agenda only four days prior to council meetings, not giving him enough time to prepare. Finally, he claimed the Oct. 20 meeting to consider preliminary allegations or charges against an employee should not have been closed. However, Minnesota Statute allows public meetings to be closed for this reason. The minutes also state that City Administrator Curt Kreklau requested that the meeting be closed.

At Monday’s meeting, two Menahga residents requested the resumption of GoToMeeting, citing health concerns about attending in person due to COVID-19.

Another resident expressed dismay that the council could not get along.

Meeting minutes

Approval of the minutes is normally a technicality, but Huebner ransacked it to reiterate his objections to any motion that passed during the Oct. 12, Oct. 20, Oct. 22 and Oct. 25 council meetings.

Olson reminded Huebner that he was at these meetings, with the exception of Oct. 25 and Oct. 29. Huebner stated he was under a 10-day quarantine at that time.

Olson called two five-minute recesses in an attempt to thwart Huebner’s interruptions. He opposed approval of the minutes.

Vaccine mandate for nursing home

Greenwood Connections Administrator Laura Ahlf reported there were three positive COVID-19 cases among residents between Oct. 28 and Nov 2.

Staff testing continues daily, Ahlf said.

Assisted living residents received the Moderna COVID booster on Nov. 2 and nursing home residents on Nov. 3.

Ahlf noted that Greenwood Connections will be required to implement a federal COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers. All staff will need to have at least their first vaccine by Dec. 4. Some exceptions will be allowed. Ahlf said she would like to set up a committee to review exception requests.

Council member Durwin Tomperi inquired how many staff are vaccinated.

About 50 percent, Ahlf replied.

Tomperi asked, “What is your contingency plan if these people walk?”

Ahlf said they would need to drop their census and admissions.

After the meeting, Ahlf issued this statement: “As care providers for older people in our community, we pledge to take all possible precautions to keep those we serve safe from COVID-19. The severe shortage of employees in long-term care makes this vaccine mandate very difficult to implement and also adds more burden on facilities from an administrative standpoint regarding receiving exemptions and additional policies and procedures we must have in place.

“While we are concerned that some individuals may leave our setting rather than becoming vaccinated, providing safe, quality care to the seniors in our community is our highest priority. Our intent is to retain our staff if they are eligible to apply for a religious or medical exemption and we are hoping that those who do not have a sincerely held religious belief or a medical exemption will be vaccinated.”