Cleared of intentional wrongdoing in Chamber/CVB funding matter, she’s going to pursue her masters degree
Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Lien has submitted her resignation. She’ll be embarking on a masters program at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth in mid-January, but will be staying in Crookston. She’ll be pursuing a Masters in Business Administration in Leadership & Change Management as part of a cohort that will travel to the campus periodically.
Lien, who’s been at the Chamber helm for almost three years, submitted her resignation to the Chamber Board of Directors Tuesday.
“I have been weighing a very difficult decision, but one that will help to advance my future and continued career,” she said in an email exchange with the Times.
Lien has been at the center of a controversy that has embroiled the Chamber, Convention & Visitors Bureau and Crookston City Council since October, when it came to light that she had been taking more money for the Chamber budget from the CVB revenue budget, derived from the local lodging tax, than what was stated in a previous agreement approved by the city council in regard to the Chamber and CVB budgets. Saying he was acting in accordance with state statute in regard to public officials reporting wrongdoing, At Large City Council Member Bobby Baird contacted State officials, and the Minnesota Auditor’s Office is still looking into the matter.
The controversy escalated when some council members and Mayor Wayne Melbye expressed frustration that they learned about the matter from the media and not through the typical and what they said were appropriate City channels of communication. As the saga unfolded, there were some tense, heated exchanges between council members and the mayor at a couple of council meetings.
To avoid any conflicts of interest, the matter was referred to East Grand Forks City Attorney Ron Galstad, who spent several weeks investigating the situation. Last week, Galstad submitted his findings, and City Finance Director Angel Weasner announced at the Dec. 11 council meeting that Galstad had found that Lien had committed no malfeasance and was not guilty of intentional wrongdoing. The matter regarding the amount of money Lien was taking from the CVB budget for the Chamber budget was a mistake that didn’t rise above an oversight, Galstad noted. He also submitted a list of recommendations he felt the council, Chamber and CVB should take going forward, with two that he felt should be acted on immediately: Approving a new agreement regarding the Chamber and CVB budgets, and improving the lines of communication between council members and the mayor and the various local boards, commissions and committees they serve on.
After Weasner announced Galstad’s findings at the Dec. 11 council meeting, Lien addressed the council, mayor, City officials and audience in attendance and, among her remarks, asked for a public apology from Baird, Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee, Chamber Board member Chris Fee, and CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth. Baird said in response that he wouldn’t comment until the state auditor’s office released its findings, and Jake Fee added that he felt he’d done nothing to warrant a public apology. Melbye and Ward 4 Council Member Dennis Regan offered apologies on their own behalf for the way the matter was handled.
Proud of her work
Lien told the Times Wednesday said she’s proud of what the Chamber and CVB have accomplished under her leadership, and she hopes to continue to be an active member of the Crookston community.
“We have provided many new engagement and networking opportunities, member benefits, leadership and growth development for our business and professional community, and formed new partnerships that will continue to help advance our work as a community; partners and projects that will hopefully continue into the future,” she stated in an email.
“We have helped start many conversations that are vital to our business and resident communities and what that means for our workforce - including diversity, child care, and quality of life enhancements all the way to entrepreneur and talent development with various partners including Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Crookston Campus Community Connection (C4), the University of Minnesota Crookston, the City of Crookston, Polk County Public Health, CHEDA, University of Minnesota Extension, Downtown Crookston Development Partnership, the International Water Institute, Riverland Tourism and the Red Lake River Corridor groups, the MN State Arts Board Panel and many more groups and individuals that I have been honored to work with that continue to do honorable and motivating work in regards to our ongoing growth and development in the region,” Lien continued. “Partnerships and collaboration have been key to our work as an organization and my role as executive director for nearly the last three years. The board members have been and will continue to be instrumental in many successes and I thank them for their dedication and service.”
Lien said she’s excited about the Chamber and CVB’s future because both are well-positioned now, and she’s also excited about the professional opportunities before her.
“We’ve successfully written and received grants, started a new non-profit organization that will continue to be a vital group into the future, helped key partners start new local initiatives such as One Vegetable One Community, hosted trainings for professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners, gathered retailers to discuss trends and promotions, welcomed new leaders into our business community connecting them with other professionals, welcomed new elected officials and mayor, connecting them with local conversations and opportunities, offered and extended our Leadership Crookston program each year showcasing our vast business community and all we have to offer, spent summer afternoons with the Farmer’s Market showcasing local talent and nights at the Downtown Square for outdoor movies, paddled down the Red Lake River with new river-goers during our paddle events helping to advance tourism opportunities for the future, and celebrated artists in our community through the new Chalk It Up event,” she continued via email. “We've made changes and accomplished much; I have treasured our challenges and successes, and I look forward to the Chamber's future and this next opportunity for my professional career.”