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Sleepy Eye Council hears more allegations against Braun

Tuesday meeting closed to discuss complaints

SLEEPY EYE — Two years after the City of Sleepy Eye released an investigative report involving Second Ward City Councilor Larry Braun, more allegations against Braun put the city council in a closed session for 52 minutes Tuesday night.

Mayor Wayne Pelzel asked Braun if he wanted an open meeting to discuss preliminary consideration of the allegations. Braun refused the offer and the city council meeting went into closed session at 9 p.m.

After the closed meeting, city councilor Joann Schmidt said the allegations against Braun involved his violating the code of conduct in a July 1 email.

“The factual allegations are a complaint lodged in good faith,” Schmidt said.

A hearing on the matter was scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Monday, July 22 in the council chambers, motion by Schmidt, seconded by Gary Windschitl that was unanimously approved.

The action comes nearly two years after the city council released an investigation report involving Braun.

An investigation conducted by Twin Cities attorney Annette M. Margarit was authorized in February 2017 after the City of Sleepy Eye received complaints about Braun from 13 city employees.

The investigation concluded that Braun, a former city utility employee who was elected to the city council in November 2017, demeaned city employees and tried to turn them against others. It read that Braun claimed city employees “worked for him now” and implied he had the power to remove them from their jobs.

Margarit concluded that Braun tried to demean people, turn them against others and that his triangular communication technique was very destructive.

Margarit said Braun’s techniques were very damaging to people in safety-sensitive positions and that creating division can be physically dangerous.

She reported that Braun had no legal right to supervise, direct or dismiss any city employee and that his action’s were outside his authority as a city council member.

In June, 2017, Sleepy Eye City Manager Mark Kober said the City of Sleepy Eye spent about $30,000 in legal and city staff costs since the investigation began and that costs were not final, but ongoing as the city council hired more lawyers to work on the issue.

Braun’s city council term ends in 2020.

In other business, the city council unanimously approved:

• Mayor Wayne Pelzel’s recommendation that the next community survey be done next year by surveying one-third of residents.

“Survey results were nearly identical with each survey. My proposal is to survey one-third of the people every two years. The surveys cost about $1,000 each to do,” Pelzel said.

Councilor Schmidt suggested a good analysis be done on the current survey by the survey committee.

Councilor Windschitl said surveys are most valuable if public input is sought.

• Councilor Schmidt said computerized campground booking software used by the City of Redwood Falls is being studied for possible use in Sleepy Eye. Schmidt said the software could be expanded to reserve park shelters and Sleepy Eye Event Center space and to prevent double-booking.

• Tabled action on garbage collection after lengthy discussion with a number of residents.

Councilor Braun said he has received many calls about it.

“It’s unhandy. I have to move my three containers 150 feet out of the alley, plus my neighbor’s containers because they are unable to do it. It’s a chore,” said Jeff Pelzel. “People without sidewalks have to walk on their grass on in the street.”

Bob Zinniel complained about garage trucks driving on the wrong side of the road with their bright lights on.

“Blinded by bright lights, I can’t see the (garbage) men,” said Dick Zinniel.

Don Michelson suggested garbage be picked up in alleys like it used to be.

Riverview Sanitation owner Brent Kucera said new, bigger, heavier garbage trucks may damage paved alleys and power lines.

“We need our lights on. But I can talk to drivers about using bright lights,” Kucera said. He said disabled customers could call the company for special accommodations including garbage men grabbing containers for them.

• The first reading of a rental inspection ordinance, motion by Councilor Schmidt, seconded by Councilor Doug Pelzel. Fischer said the city has not chosen a rental inspector yet.

• Tabled a request by Mark Kober regarding street parking near his residence on Third Avenue N.W. (T.H. 4). Kober said he paved a parking space in his yard in front of his residence but neighbors complained about lack of visibility from the service road to vehicles traveling south.

In addition, he said the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) marked the street yellow in front of the residence so there is no additional room to park.

“My grandkids and kids have to park across the highway if they visit,” Kober said.

Sleepy Eye Police Chief Matt Andres will talk to neighboring residents about making the service road a northbound, one-way road to avoid what they consider restricted visibility.

“It seems like a good request to make so he has a parking space,” Andres said.

(Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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