Council members, mayor, appointees and City staff could all potentially be subject to new guidelines
At the request of newly elected Ward 4 Crookston City Council Member Don Cavalier, a “working group” is going to be formed, tasked with the job of what Cavalier hopes will not just be a code of conduct that council members and the mayor would sign and abide by, but also people appointed to various City boards and commissions and potentially City staff. Cavalier said he’d like to go beyond simply a code of conduct and also formulate ethics standards for elected officials, appointees and staff to abide by.
The entire topic dates back several months. During a period where some council meetings featured particularly contentious debates and back-and-forth finger-pointing between various council members and, at times, then-Mayor Wayne Melbye, the League of Minnesota Cities came to Crookston to conduct a workshop with the council and mayor that focused on leadership and communication. The LMC at the time also offered up its code of conduct template for the Crookston council to consider for adoption.
Over a period of several weeks, the code of conduct was discussed, tweaked and shortened to make it less redundant and more specific to Crookston. But it was never a slam dunk for adoption, with some council members saying it wasn’t necessary, and others saying that language regarding conduct in the city charter should suffice.
At some point, with the November 2018 election drawing closer, the decision was made to put off any further discussion until a new mayor and council was seated in 2019. Saying he was asked to get the code of conduct discussion back on the table, City Administrator Shannon Stassen put the code of conduct on a council Ways & Means Committee agenda in January, and the decision was made then to further discuss the matter when the council, Mayor Guy Martin and Stassen convened for their day-long strategic planning session, which is set for March 30.
In advance of that, Cavalier said this week that he wanted to lead a working group so that the council has something substantial to discuss at the planning retreat. He said he wants a code of ethics considered as well.
“We need a comprehensive code (of conduct and/or ethics), more than we have now,” said Cavalier, who retired after a long career at the University of Minnesota Crookston. “At UMC we had a code of conduct and a code of ethics. If we wouldn’t have had that, we would have been faced with a lot of difficult decisions involving staff.” Cavalier added that he’s researched the matter some already, including getting information from East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls.
Ward 4 Council Member Clayton Briggs said he’d serve on the working group, as did newly elected Ward 6 Council Member Cindy Gjerswold and Mayor Martin. Stassen advised that the working group shouldn’t be limited in membership, and that any council members who want to attend meetings and be a part of the discussion should be allowed to participate.