Former city council members calls rationale behind firing a 'cheap shot.'

For the third time since April, and the second time this month, Frank Lindgren, a former longtime Crookston City Council member who didn't seek re-election last November, took his former colleagues to task for their decision earlier this month to terminate Tony Chladek as city administrator.

Standing at the podium during the "Crookston forum" that opens each council meeting, Lindgren Monday evening at city hall said Chladek, who was hired in February 2012, was "a good guy and a good administrator who did nothing wrong." He said administrators are "at-will" employees and can, therefore, apparently be terminated for no reason. "I believe this is what happened here," Lindgren said.

The council, months after an April "no confidence" vote deadlocked at 4-4, with Mayor Dave Genereux casting the tie-breaking vote in Chladek's favor, voted 6-1 to terminate Chladek's contract on Aug. 12. Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten voted against, and Ward 3 Council Member Gary Willhite, appointed to the council last month to fill Keith Mykleseth's vacated seat, abstained. Since then, Public Works Director Pat Kelly has taken over as interim administrator and a search is underway to find a permanent administrator. The goal is to have someone in place by Jan. 1, 2014.

As part of his contractual language, Chladek is receiving six months salary, or around $49,000. The minimum starting salary for the new administrator will be $85,000 a year, depending on experience.

Lindgren said Chladek wasn't the problem, it's the council itself that's the problem. "Minus one or two council members, you never supported him," Lindgren said. "You don't know what you want in an administrator."

At the Aug. 12 meeting, Ward 2 Council Member Dana Johnson stated that during the last month Chladek was on the job, he had done some things that amounted to "grounds for dismissal." Asked afterward by the Times to elaborate, Johnson referred questions to Mayor Dave Genereux. Genereux, in turn, said that it wasn't any major, single thing that led to Chladek's firing, but several little things that added up over the past year or so.

Lindgren on Monday, apparently in reference to Johnson's comment Aug. 12, called it a "cheap shot," adding that if a council member is going to "say something like that you'd better be prepared to explain it."

After his remarks, Lindgren walked out of the council chambers, and no council members responded.