GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board, Tuesday, voted to deny a written complaint made in late September against the town board by fire department member Jeff Maus alleging “multiple …
GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board, Tuesday, voted to deny a written complaint made in late September against the town board by fire department member Jeff Maus alleging “multiple disrespectful workplace incidents” that violated the township’s personnel policy. The complaint stemmed from the special meeting held in June to discuss Maus’ grievance regarding the refusal to pay for documented training time related to study outside of a classroom, an amount which totaled less than $400.
Township attorney Mike Couri sent the board a five-page memo on the issue, which Chairman Mike Ralston noted had likely cost the township “about a thousand bucks.” Clerk Sue Drobac, at Ralston’s direction, read the entire memo out loud at the meeting.
The first issue addressed by the memo is whether or not the township actually has an approved personnel policy. The personnel policy language was the basis of Maus’ complaint. But according to Couri, the policy was never formally adopted, via motion, by the town board back in 2017. Couri noted that the town board minutes did cite motions to adopt changes made to the policy.
“Under Minnesota law, only the town board can establish township policy,” he wrote. “Without a motion to adopt the personnel policy and a majority vote in favor of adopting the personnel policy, that the town board passed various revisions to the different draft iterations of the personnel policy is irrelevant.”
Since the town board had never formally adopted the policy, Couri stated, the personnel policy does not apply.
Couri told the board that this fact alone is sufficient to adequately dispose of the issues raised in the Maus complaint. But Couri then went on to address the other issues that had been raised, specifically Ralston’s comments towards Maus during a meeting. Couri noted he had listened to the entire recording of the June 19, 2018, meeting in question, and also cited state law, and concluded that “Mr. Maus’ complaint is without merit.” Couri also noted that Ralston was the lone vote against a motion to not pay Maus for any of the home study time being contested.
“This vote would seem to contradict Mr. Maus’ argument that the chair was attempting to intimidate Mr. Maus, relatiate against Mr. Maus, or harass Mr. Maus,” wrote Couri.
During the public comment section of the meeting, former board chairman John Bassing said that he felt Couri’s assessment of the personnel policy is not correct.
“We went through the personnel policy page by page,” he said. “We approved it and sent it to the township attorney for review. Then made the final changes in July 2017.” Bassing noted that it had been reported that the new policy was adopted. He noted the board then put the policy into the fire department personnel policies, as well as voting to put it on the township website.
“To deny that it was township policy at this point cannot be defended,” Bassing said.
Also, during public comment, Steve Rodgers asked the board if there were a way to recover attorney fees when a citizen files a frivolous complaint.
Ralston replied that he didn’t know of one, and that he had posed that question to their attorney.
The board gave final approval (second reading) to the new fire department Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) and Paid-on-Call (POC) guidelines. Revisions were made to both policies to update language, to clarify training reimbursement and approved trainings, and to clarify membership and meeting requirements.
Greenwood Assistant Fire Chief Mike Indihar reported on the department’s response to the Cook Zup’s fire on Nov. 12. He noted that six firefighters had responded, which included three members from Bois Forte. They stayed on scene until around 4 a.m., with their engine as a backup water supply and manning hoses.
“It was nice to see all the cooperation at the scene,” he said. Indihar noted it was a very difficult fire to fight, because the building had no windows. He said eventually an excavator was used to open up the back wall of the building, to allow the fire to be completely extinguished.
Indihar also reported on a meeting held at Fortune Bay to discuss pre-planning for fire and other emergency events. He noted that Virginia Fire Department officials had been very helpful with working on such plans for the department.
“They are true professionals,” he said. “It was a very productive meeting.”
Chief Fazio asked the board to approve changes to the automatic mutual aid system between Greenwood, Tower, and Breitung. The new “Box Alarm” system will only call for automatic mutual aid in cases of actual fires, rescue, or water-related rescue. For other calls, such as automatic alarms, the system would let the responding department determine if mutual aid was required.
The board also approved a request from Fazio to pay Safety Officer Ed Borchardt his salary year-round, noting that even though he is out of the area in the winter, he was still actively organizing trainings and overseeing other officers who were acting as safety officer on scene in his place.
In other business, the town board:
Heard from Clerk Drobac, who reported that 606 voters had cast ballots, out of 750 registered voters. The township also registered 38 new voters on Election Day.
Heard that Frandsen Bank will no longer administer the township’s community enhancement loan fund. The township will need to either administer the loans themselves, or else find another authority able to do this. Treasurer Pam Rodgers said she is able to generate amortization schedules and generate loan documents, but there are additional administrative, tax reporting, and state reporting requirements. She also said the IRRRB, which contributed the initial $40,000 that started the fund, is not sure if this part of the loan fund, which now totals about $97,000, is restricted in its use.
Rodgers said there is currently one party who is seeking a loan from the fund, which offers a low-interest, two-year loan for septic system improvements or replacements.
Heard about the extremely slow speed with the internet connection at the town hall, which is supposed to be connected to the new high-speed fiber optic network installed by Frontier. Rodgers wondered if the networking in the township office was not upgraded to take advantage of the new fiber connection.
Will hold a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 26 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss a decision from one of the township’s insurance carriers (Western World) that they are no longer covering legal costs relating to a retaliation complaint by fire department member Jeff Maus to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Maus had applied for the assistant chief position. Maus claimed that the decision not to hire him was related to his earlier complaints about department safety. Ralston noted that the town board had just received this information, and that the township attorney had not had a chance to review the information from the insurance company attorney. Ralston noted that this case has been going on for most of the year, and that as far as he knew, all of the interviewing had been completed.
Approved ordering a new sign for the recycling canister site, to inform users of rules and laws relating to littering.
Heard that the clerk’s office and fire department had both completed their inventories of township equipment.
Will purchase 400 feet of rubber hose to use for flooding the skating rink.
Gave Clerk Drobac the authority to spend up to $3,500 for a new copier. The current copier dates back to 2011 and has stopped working.
Thanked the volunteers who had spent time getting the pavilion area ready for winter.
Held a special meeting on Oct. 15 to approve payment of the township’s insurance policy with Corp 4/Western World Insurance Company for a total of $8,468.
Approved a rental agreement form for use of the town hall and/or pavilion area.
Will hire Vermilion Snow Management for snowplowing/shoveling services at a cost of $100 per hour. The board noted this was the only quote received, and the township was happy with the service provided last year.
Ralston discussed a letter to the editor in the Timberjay, sent by Rick Stoehr, and questioned Stoehr about his assertions in the letter.