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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Town board struggles to get through agenda

Jodi Summit
Posted 4/18/24

GREENWOOD TWP- The April 9 town board meeting had an unexpected visitor— a St. Louis County deputy sheriff who attended while in uniform. The deputy said it was part of an outreach effort by …

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Town board struggles to get through agenda


GREENWOOD TWP- The April 9 town board meeting had an unexpected visitor— a St. Louis County deputy sheriff who attended while in uniform. The deputy said it was part of an outreach effort by the department, not a response to the board’s contentious March 27 special meeting, as a few in the audience speculated.
That special meeting was supposed to solely address a financial report due for submission to the state auditor, but veered off track at times during discussion about how township financials were being handled. Former clerk JoAnn Bassing reacted verbally to characterizations of her work product as clerk, and according to the meeting minutes was repeatedly gaveled out of order.
“You both [clerk Debby Spicer and chair Lois Roskoski] defamed Jeff [Maus] and I to all in attendance without verifying the origin of the information, to which I can attest,” JoAnn Bassing wrote in an apology issued after the special meeting.
“What offended me was when Spicer said CTAS was accurate when she was clerk,” JoAnn Bassing said. “Jeff and I spent countless hours doing research with the state auditor and MAT personnel [to get it corrected].”
“I do not think Debby’s minutes were accurate,” JoAnn Bassing said, adding that remarks made by Maus at the meeting that the discussion had veered off the published agenda were not included.
During public comment, JoAnn Bassing read from a long list of items she had reviewed with the new clerk, Debby Spicer, when she was sworn in, along with how information was being organized in the clerk’s office.
The board spent 75 minutes on the basic introductory parts of the agenda, including public input, approval of the agenda and payroll, and approval of minutes.
Former board member Mike Ralston said the payroll register included in the online meeting packet was different from the one presented at the meeting. Treasurer Jeff Maus said the one at the meeting was the current one. Clerk Debby Spicer said the one included in the online packet was the one approved at the meeting after the March annual meeting.
Maus said the correct payroll included checks for the election judges, as well as prorated checks for the newly-elected officers, though it was noted that Roskoski’s name was not on the printout. Maus said the payroll processing firm the township uses (ADP) was having trouble getting that name added, but that it had been completed after a few tries. Issues were also noted with inaccurate payroll totals for the two former supervisors whose salaries had been pro-rated.
Ralston accused the township of a “clear case of wage theft” because the township prorated March payroll when he left the board and was doing it again for the two outgoing supervisors. He insisted he was due back wages plus interest.
“I had fulfilled my duties by attending the monthly meetings,” Ralston said, noting he had protested this move previously. “I got shorted!”
Roskoski said the board should add to the administrative guidelines, saying that outgoing township officials’ salaries are prorated to the date the new supervisor is sworn in.
Maus said that the payroll and financial reports included in the online agenda packet were not his final versions.
“They weren’t submitted by me,” Maus said.
The issues with the information in the packet appeared to stem from some confusion during the switchover to the new clerk, and the collection of the information needed for the meeting.
Roskoski asked that Maus submit a written treasurer’s report prior to the board meeting so it could be included in the packet along with the other financial information. Maus had previously, as had past treasurers, given a verbal report at the meeting. Maus was able to get corrections made to the payroll during the meeting, which were then approved.
The approval of the minutes was also contentious. A motion to add comments made by Maus at the special meeting lost on a 2-3 vote, with Roskoski, Paul Skubic, and Craig Gilbert voting against. A motion to approve the treasurers report passed 3-2 with John Bassing and Rick Stoehr voting against.
John Bassing had numerous corrections to the reorganizational meeting minutes, mostly detailing who had made or seconded a motion. These were approved unanimously.
Administrative guidelines
A motion to approve the administrative guidelines written by Roskoski was passed on a 3-2 vote, with Bassing and Stoehr voting against. Roskoski said the language was adapted from other townships, along with the existing policies, and that the language, with a few revisions, was approved by the township attorney. The guidelines outline basic responsibilities of township officials, how meeting agendas are set, limits public input at meetings to 10 minutes per person, outlines expectations of respectful behavior during meetings, along with a duty list for the clerk and treasurer. The guidelines also set the process and fees for accessing public information and set the annual salary for township officials and fire department officials. These guidelines will be approved annually.
Approved salaries are: Chair: $411.44/month; Supervisor: $383.02/month; Clerk: $2,316.59/month; Treasurer: $962.50/month; Deputy clerk or treasurer: $25/hour; Election judge/head election judge: $15/hour; and set the spending authority for clerk, fire chief, and maintenance supervisor at $1,000/month.
Public information guidelines: Citizens requesting public information can contact the clerk to set up a time to inspect public records. If the clerk is required to search for information, after the first 15 minutes, time will be charged at $25 per hour, and 25 cents per page for copies (copies fewer than 25 pages at no cost). It also sets charges for copying data to a personal thumb drive.
Stoehr said the clerk and treasurer are not subservient to the supervisors.
“We can make recommendations, other townships do,” said Roskoski.
“We are not other townships,” said Stoehr. “It should be stated as such.”
In other business at the April 9 meeting, the board:
• Tabled discussion until their next meeting on a policy for guns on township property.
• Tabled discussion of current township policies including standard operating guidelines for the fire department, personnel policy, camera policy, internal control document, and capital replacement fund/plan.
• Approved setting up separate fund and bank account for the road fund tax monies received between 2015 and 2024 of $34,497.
Bassing noted that MAT (Minnesota Association of Townships) has a document that lays out snow/ice removal policies and states that gas tax monies can be used for this purpose. According to Bassing’s research, the township spent about $25,000 on snow/ice removal during this time period. The vote to set up a road fund was unanimous. The vote to establish a separate bank account for the fund passed 4-1, with Bassing voting against.
• Set up a committee to report back to the board on what maintenance is needed on the paved trail.
• Authorized having the deputy clerk (Tammy Mortaloni) import financial data into the CTAS program. The deputy clerk was appointed by clerk Spicer.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:40 p.m., without completing the rest of the agenda, including supervisor reports, clerk report and correspondence, and the report from the fire chief, who was looking for permission to hire two new fire department members.
The Timberjay reported on parts of this meeting in the April 12 issue.