02/19/2018 A Voice from the Gallery

 

I begin with an apology to my readers and Alcester Councilwoman Kay for my error in name reporting in January 16, 2018, article of A View From the Gallery. The newly seated Alcester Municipal Ward I Councilwoman is Melissa (not Amanda) Kay.  I also, want to apologise for the delay in getting this article posted.  I wanted to make sure of my facts with Foia and with the video.  Especially note the comment by councilman Lance Johnson about how his new seat at the Mayor’s left hand makes him more talkative, the ‘explanation’ by Pat regarding her morning trip with Mayor Glas’ January 9th visit with Chuck Haugland and Finance Office employee Wanda Halverson’s off agenda input just before adjournment that was not city business.

The February 5, 2018, regular meeting of the Alcester City Council was not formally called to order. Mayor Tom Glas looked at the clock and stated, “it’s 6:00 time to get started,” (video :09) with Council members Lance Johnson, Melissa Kay, Dan Haeder, Julia Sundstrom-Lyle, David Larsen, and Darla Reppe present. Also seated at the council table was Beresford attorney Tom Frieberg. In addition Assistant Finance employee Wanda Halverson, Alcester City employee Lonnie Johnson and Vickie Larsen were present in the gallery.

After the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Glas called for Agenda Approval at which point Alcester Finance Officer Jurrens stated the agenda needed to have a question addition of a one-time burn added to the Golf Course agenda item. Councilman Lance Johnson moved to approve the agenda with the one-time burn question added to the agenda. Second came from Councilwoman Sundstrom-Lyle, with no additional discussion the group voted unanimous aye.

January 8, 2018, minutes approval was called and again Finance Officer Jurrens (video 01:34) admitted her error in recording the minutes and a correcting amendment would be needed. She stated Councilman David Larsen left the meeting at 8:10 p.m. but she included him in subsequent votes. Upon Jurrens revelation Councilman Dan Haeder made the motion to approve the January 8, 2018, minutes as corrected, Councilwoman Reppe seconded the motion and with no further discussion the group voted unanimously aye (times 6).

Public Input was called—no public input.

Agenda Item #6b- Retainer Agreement called. In the January 8, 2018, regular council meeting Councilman David Larsen moved to accept the City Attorney Retainer agreement of which all council members had a true and complete copy and Councilwoman Reppe seconded the motion. Councilwoman Melissa Kay asked a couple questions regarding the retainer agreement history and with no further discussion by council members, the question was called with a unanimous (times 6) approval of the retainer agreement between the City of Alcester and Charles Haugland of Gubbrud, Haugland and Gillespie.

Now February 5, 2018, the Alcester City Council is terminating the Retainer Agreement with Alcester City Attorney Charles Haugland. During the February 5, 2018, meeting discussion and prior to Councilman Lance Johnson’s motion to terminate the retainer agreement with Gubbrud, Haugland and Gillespie, Finance Officer Par Jurrens took the floor to comment, (video 02:51)”…after the January meeting (January 9, 2018) Mayor Tom and I (FO Jurrens) went down to the law office to… garbled and inaudible…to notify (Chuck) the council decided it was time for a change in city attorney…”, to which Chuck responded per Finance Officer Pat Jurren’s account, “…he (Chuck Haugland) was done with legal services as of December 31, 2017…” and which Mr. Haugland confirmed with a letter of resignation to the City of Alcester on January 16, 2018.

REALLY?

In the January 8, 2018, regular meeting the Council unanimously (times 6) approved the 2018 retainer agreement with the addition of language in item 15, page 3, “…This agreement contains the entire agreement between the parties may not be changed orally but by agreement in writing and can be terminated by the City or attorney at will upon thirty days written notice to the other party…” between the City of Alcester and Gubbrud, Haugland and Gillespie. NO DISCUSSION Councilman Lance Johnson, Councilman David Larsen, Councilman Dan Haeder, Councilwoman Darla Reppe, Councilwoman Julia Sundstrom-Lyle and Councilwoman Melissa Kay ALL voted aye making the decision unanimous.

“…On January 9, 2018, Tuesday morning after the Monday night regular meeting in which the council voted unanimously to approve the retainer with no discussion, Finance Officer Pat Jurrens and Mayor ‘Tom’ visited Mr. Haugland’s law office telling him, “…the City Council felt that it was “time for a change” concerning the retention of our law office and me in particular as City Attorney for the City of Alcester…there was no other reason stated…and the City intended to retain Tom Frieberg of Frieberg, Nelson & Ask of Beresford, SD as the new City Attorney for the City of Alcester…”  (Letter of Resignation from Charles Haugland)  January 16, 2018, page 1.

WHAT?

Folks the council voted unanimously, Monday, January 8, 2018, and entered into a ratified, binding, good faith agreement. But, wait! On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, less than twenty-four hours later, Finance Officer Pat Jurrens and Mayor Tom are hot-footing it down to Chuck’s office to tell him, “the council decided it’s time for a change (in representation)!”

WOW! The council decided it’s time for a change less than 24 hours after they voted unanimously to approve the retainer agreement?

There was no discussion or concerns brought by the council after the unanimous approval! None, zip, nada. I was present in the meeting until the January meeting was adjourned and council members left the council building. The council made no such decision, January 8, 2018!

February 16, 2018, when I picked-up the FOIA copies I requested on February 7, 2018, I asked Finance Officer Pat Jurrens, “Is it true Alcester Councilman Lance Johnson didn’t want Chuck talking to residents of Alcester about (non-confidential) city business and if he did he speak to an Alcester resident about city business he was to notify the city in advance and have Finance Officer Jurrens present?”   Finance Officer Jurrens replied, “Yes, it was discussed a year ago and the rest of the council was present, too.”  History of this, about a year ago a Alcester Resident Peter Larsen and Alcester City Attorney spoke concerning issues arising out of the Larsen’s lost water bill, a letter from the city by Finance Officer Pat Jurrens who flatly refused to supply the Larsens (who routinely paid their water bill a year in advance) with monthly statements and in which Alcester City Attorney Charles Haugland was courtesy copied. Mr. Larsen went to the city office during regular business hours, found the office dark, locked up with no one there. Mr. Larsen then went to the Law office to discuss the contents of the letter from Finance Officer Jurrens with Alcester City Attorney, which resulted in a letter from Mr. Haugland to Mayor Glas, Finance Officer Pat Jurrens and council members affirming Mr. Larsen’s position. On another occasion when Mr. Haugland was looking for documentation from former Alcester Mayor Peter Larsen about the 911 lawsuit against the city and Mr. Haugland and I had a brief conversation on the sidewalk in front of the law office, after which Alcester City Councilman Lance Johnson threw a ‘hissie-fit’ about the city paying for free legal advice to the Larsens.

Astounded with Finance Officer Jurrens answer I asked, “Was there a meeting on January 9th, 2018 (for council discussion of legal representation changes)? Finance Officer Jurrens replied, “no”. I asked, “when did the council decide they needed a change in representation?” Finance Officer Jurrens replied, “in the February meeting.” Puzzled about the timing I asked, “so the council had no special meeting to discuss changes in legal representation on January 9, 2018?” Finance Officer Jurrens replied, “No, but Mayor Tom and I did not want to blind-side Chuck at the February meeting, so we decided to talk to him.” I asked, “why did the council sign the 2018 retainer document in January?” Finance Officer Jurrens replied, “Well, we still needed representation until the February meeting.”        Dear Sweet Calamity Jane, Mayor “Tom” and Finance Officer Jurrens took it upon themselves to improperly terminate the duly approved and signed retainer agreement (on January 9, 2018) on their own initiative without the knowledge, notification and ratification of the Alcester City Council in the guise of representing the city council!

WHAT THE DEVIL IS GOING ON?

As I listened and witnessed the Great Gypsy Switch perpetrated by Mayor Tom Glas and Finance Officer Pat Jurrens on the Alcester City Council and the residents of Alcester in the February 5, 2018, city council meeting as they related to the duly approved Retainer agreement between Mr. Haugland and the City of Alcester, it became clear I needed to interview Mr. Haugland. I met with Mr. Haugland on February 13, 2018, for the purposes to interview and explore Mr. Haugland’s reaction to Mayor Glas and Finance Officer Jurrens unorthodox behaviors and proclamations.

Upon graduation Mr. Haugland came to Alcester in June of 1975, joining in the law practice with Mr. John Gubbrud. From that time forward, Mr. Haugland and the law firm (under its various names) has been the attorney of record, representing in good stead the City of Alcester and it’s Council. Mr. Haugland has represented the City of Alcester at a reduced, nominal fee during those years. Mr. Haugland felt the difference between the reduced retainer fee extended to the City of Alcester and the customary legal fees charged by law firms in the surrounding area a loyalty contribution to the community. The 2018 signed, approved, ratified Retainer agreement between the City of Alcester and Charles Haugland, Gubbrud, Haugland and Gillespie provided for the hourly rate of $105.00 per hour.

TAKE NOTE: Compare the new retainer agreement with Tom Frieberg, Frieberg, Nelson and Ask of Beresford for the hourly rate of $150.00 per hour (Tom Frieberg) and $125.00 per hour (Sam Nelson) including mileage for attendance of one regular meeting per month.

So Alcester City Council members when did you make the decision for “a change” between 6:00 p.m. January 8, 2018, when ya’ll voted unanimously access the 2018 Retainer with Mr. Haugland and the following, Tuesday morning when Finance Officer Jurrens and Mayor ‘Tom’ went to the law office to announce a decision of which ya’ll had no knowledge?

Agenda Item #6d-Retainer Agreement called motion to approve 2018 Retainer Agreement. Alcester City Councilman Dan Haeder moved to accept the 2018 Retainer Agreement with Frieberg, Nelson and Ask of Beresford, SD, Councilman Lance Johnson seconded the motion and with no discussion the vote was called with 4 ayes (Councilmen Haeder, Larsen, Johnson and Councilwoman Sundstrom-Lyle) and 2 abstentions (Councilwomen Reppe and Kay). The motion passed.

Note: the above document provided to Frieberg, Nelson and Ask by Alcester city, obviously not authored by Gubbrud, Haugland and Gillespie begs the question who did author this cobbled document? Could it be the same PRJ who couldn’t get the date right on a legal instrument? I don’t think PRJ stands for Pruned Raspberry Jammed up and Jelly wrong! Is the city bookkeeper now authoring legal documents?

Agenda Item #7a-Legal Updates -Mayor Glas called for motion to approve the 2018 Equipment Bond Resolution. Councilman David Larsen moved to approve the 2018 Equipment Bond Resolution, second came from Councilwoman Darla Reppe, no discussion with the council voting unanimous times 6 aye. Motion passed for the resolution not to exceed $230K

Agenda Item #14a- City Employee Updates -Approve Warrants. In the list of warrants Finance Officer Jurrens included legal fees for Gubbrud, Haugland, & Gillespie in the amount of $1755.75. According to my sources the problem with this warrant was these fees were two separate billing cycles which were lumped together as has apparently been Finance Officer Jurrens’ practice. This Finance Officer’s failure to distinguish, report and publish accurately two billing cycles from one billing cycle, implies the $1755.75 legal fee amount was a single billing cycle and the city was paying exorbitant legal fees to Mr. Haugland.

Agenda Item #14(e)(II)-Meeting Watch-Allegedly at no cost to the city. This advertisement will give out the names and telephone numbers of the city council members in a weekly ad. So why couldn’t this be handled in the city website? Oh that’s right, then Finance Officer Jurrens would have to post city records. Why give out personal telephone numbers of the council, why not assign the council members an e-mail.city address which would be separate from their personal or business email?

Tom Frieberg left the meeting at 7:11 p.m.

Agenda Item #14(f)(I)-Executive session called for personnel (again). Councilman Lance Johnson moved to go into executive session for personnel, Councilman Dave Larsen seconded the motion, no discussion, vote times 6 ayes, council in executive session at 7:20 p.m. with Finance Officer Pat Jurrens stating she wanted Wanda in the session. At 7:41 p.m. the council was called back into open session with no action taken in open meeting.

Agenda Item #19-Executive session if need, none.

However Finance office Employee Wanda Halverson asked (video 01:28:11) to submit public input. She was present when public input was called but failed to respond. H-m-m! Ms. Halverson wanted the council to donate the change from their checks to the fundraiser at the school.  City business?

Agenda Item #20– Adjournment. Councilman Lance Johnson moved to adjourn, Councilwoman Darla Reppe seconded the motion, no discussion with the vote times 6 unanimous ayes to adjourn. Council adjourned at 7:55 p.m.