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Feely review on hold while investigation ensues

By Staff | Nov 14, 2009

A performance evaluation for Winnebago’s city administrator was put on hold until an investigation of allegations against four council members is completed.

Tuesday night, the City Council approved a recommendation by Mayor Randy Nowak and City Attorney Douglas Johan-son to hire Bloomington attorney Jeff M. Zalaskyto investigate a complaint made by Jennifer Feely.

The Register also has learned at least one council member has sought the legal advice of an attorney.

The city administrator’s evaluation was on the agenda, but Johanson advised the council to postpone the review.

“I have consulted with a League of Minnesota Cities attorney and we both agree the review be continued pending completion of the investigation. It would be more appropriate,” Johanson told the council.

Feely’s attorney, Joseph Bromeland, told the council his client has no problem putting off her annual review until the matter is resolved.

Councilman Dana Gates, who was named in the complaint, says he supports Johanson’s recommendation to table the evaluation.

“I don’t know how I could participate in this review without the investigation findings,” he says.

It’s the second time the city administrator’s annual evaluation has been delayed.

Last month, Feely filed a complaint accusing the council of violating the open meeting law; not following the city’s personnel policy; and violating fair labor practices.

At that time she said the council held an illegal meeting where they decided to fire her in exchange for several employees voting not to join a union.

In announcing the hiring of Zalasky, Johanson read a statement from Nowak explaining their selection.

“The scope of the investigation will be determined by Mr. Zalasky. The city attorney and I will make no further statements or answer any questions concerning this matter,” Nowak wrote.

Zalasky is expected to begin the investigation this week and will charge the city $225 an hour.

“He has reviewed all of the names and information that has been sent to him and he knows none of the people involved. He has absolutely no conflict of interest,” says Johanson.

City officials are hoping to have a report of the findings by their December council meeting.