She calls Stassen and liar and says he was hired illegally; he responds.
At the end of Tuesday evening’s Crookston City Council meeting, Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook referenced a recent opinion column in the Times that touched on behind the scenes tensions among Crookston decision-makers that have sometimes boiled to the surface. The column suggested that several council members and City leaders appear to be either on “Team Shannon” – a reference to City Administrator Shannon Stassen – or “Team Craig” – a reference to CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth.
Stainbrook said he disagreed with the idea of breaking people into two teams, and said, instead, there is one team, “Team Crookston.”
But at the end of the council’s Ways & Means Committee meeting a little more than an hour later Tuesday, tensions boiled to the surface once again when Dana Johnson, a onetime council member and mayoral candidate who did not get elected last week, confronted Stassen, Mayor Wayne Melbye and the council.
According to audio from the exchange, Johnson noted that Stassen, who was previously placed on an “improvement plan” by the mayor and council and was supposed to receive a 90-day review to check on his progress, had not been reviewed in the approximately six months since. Johnson also reiterated previous concerns voiced about Hoiseth not receiving the full complement of documentation that council members receive, and she said that Stassen was directed to hold regular meetings with Hoiseth and, she contended, those regular meetings aren’t taking place.
Johnson referenced a recent conversation she had with Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten, in which Johnson said Vedbraaten indicated that Stassen had “flat-out lied” to him about Hoiseth receiving the entirety of documents that council members and the mayor do.
Vedbraaten interjected that he did not say Stassen had lied. “I didn’t say anybody lied,” he said.
Saying he wouldn’t stand for being called a liar in public, Stassen said that after checking on the situation, it was determined that Hoiseth was receiving all but one piece of documentation, after previous due diligence appeared to indicate that Hoiseth was in fact receiving everything. Hoiseth never called himself to check on the situation involving the documents, Stassen said, but had “surrogates” call instead. Eventually, it was cleared up and Hoiseth has since received all of the documentation, he added.
“It can’t be spun the other way,” Stassen said. “No lie was told and never has been. That’s just not accurate. I can’t just sit here and take that.”
Johnson said that during her campaign for mayor she heard concerns from many people on the issue of City leaders clashing, and the general concern is that the community won’t make progress on economic development if people can’t work together. She also said she’s read emails and has been “appalled” by the contents of some of them and cannot believe that concerning content hasn’t been addressed.
Melbye said that Stassen’s progress since the improvement plan was put in place has been addressed in various ways, but “some situations aren’t privy to the public.”
Melbye went on to voice his frustrations with his failed efforts to date to get the council and CHEDA Board of Directors to hold a joint meeting, and that he’s still trying to make that meeting happen.
Mostly, though, the mayor was frustrated by Johnson’s communications tactics. Instead of talking to him or other people directly to share her concerns, Melbye said she prefers “stirring the pot” and coming to the council meeting “trying to fire bullets.”
Johnson said she had issues with Stassen dating back to her time on the council, and contended that he was hired as administrator in illegal fashion.
Stainbrook noted that he has tried to get the “CHEDA chair” to “have a cup of coffee” with Stassen, without success. “If the CHEDA chair won’t meet with the city administrator, there’s a problem,” Stainbrook said. Wednesday, the Times spoke to Kurt Heldstab, chair/president of the CHEDA Board, and he confirmed that he was the person Stainbrook was referring to.
Melbye said various concerns are being “taken care of in a respectful manner” and not in the fashion of Tuesday evening’s heated exchange. He wondered if some people would think Johnson’s public voicing of her concerns would be taken as a case of “sour grapes” and he told Johnson she could reach out to him anytime and he will meet with her to further discuss her concerns. Then, saying he was “getting a little on the furry side,” the mayor ended the discussion and adjourned the meeting.
Hoiseth typically attends council and Ways & Means Committee meetings but he was on vacation and absent from Tuesday’s meetings.