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Finch says she’ll give Charter Commission some options

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    The appointed members of the City of Crookston Charter Commission meet once a year, in December. When they met in December of 2019, the city council was experiencing some turmoil, with two vacancies created by newly elected Ward 6 Council Member Cindy Gjerswold’s resignation because she moved outside of city limits, and Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook, also the vice mayor, having to take the mayor’s chair when newly elected mayor Guy Martin also resigned.

    The charter indicates that five votes of the eight member council are needed to pass any resolutions, so with the council down two members and the mayor only voting to break ties, there was a concern that if even one council member was absent from a meeting, there wouldn’t be enough votes to approve something as simple as the City’s monthly bill run.

    There were also questions about the council’s ability to call for a special election versus the council simply appointing someone when there are vacancies on the council. Charter language indicates the council “may” call for such an election to fill a vacancy, but one city attorney, Chuck Fitzgerald, interpreted the language one way, and his successor as city attorney, Corky Reynolds, interpreted the wording another way. At the time, there were those who felt a special election should be conducted to fill council and mayoral vacancies, and there were those who preferred the appointment route, often citing the expense of conducting a special election.

    Also around that time, the council was nearing a separation agreement with then-City Administrator Shannon Stassen. For much of 2020, Finance Director Angel Weasner served as interim city administrator, until Amy Finch was hired and started this past October.

    The Charter Commission held its annual meeting this week, and when informed by Mayor Stainbrook that the commission’s questions and concerns voiced a year ago hadn’t been resolved, Finch interjected that she’d been trying to get up to speed on the intricacies of the local charter and also had been reading up on the commission’s discussion from a year ago. She said she wanted to give the commission some options to consider as far as revising the chapter to alleviate some of their concerns, and she recommended the commission add a second meeting to its 2021 calendar by getting together in April or May to consider the options she’ll present.

    “Let’s give Amy some marching orders to clean this up a little bit,” Stainbrook added.

    With a full council in place now, there is less urgency to immediately address the matter, so Finch can take her time and put something meaningful together, commission member Betty Arvidson said.

    “We had the perfect storm (in December 2019) with this, and then we were trying to fix it when we were in the heart of it,” she said. “Now we have some time.”