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Wells OKs Cost of Probe

By Staff | May 1, 2010

Shannon Savick

The Wells City Council will hold special meetings Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss separate investigations involving two city employees.

For the second straight meeting, council members and City Attorney David Frundt went into closed-session to review the cases and took no action after being behind closed doors for 30 minutes.

City officials did agree to pay Setter & Associates $24,861 and The Data Recovery Guy $1,552 for costs incurred during the five-month investigation.

“We did approve the investigations. I feel we should pay it at this time,” Mayor Shannon Savick told the council when they were reviewing monthly bills.

At their first meeting in April, the council unanimously voted to table paying for the investigative services.

Before closing the meeting to the public, Councilman Mike Weber’s motion to let the council see both investigations died for lack of a second. Weber then asked Frundt if the meeting could be closed to just discuss the investigations.

Weber says state law requires a more specific reason must be given and read an advisory opinion from the Minnesota Department of Administration.

“It requires a government entity to identify the individuals who are being discussed and the status of the process of the complaints or charges against the individuals,” read Weber.

In a memo to council members, City Administrator Jeremy Germann explains why city officials have not been given information on the investigations.

He says League of Minnesota Cities officials have instructed him and Frundt not to release any details.

“There is a substantial amount of information involved and many legal issues that need to be taken into consideration,” wrote Germann. “A procedural violation of the law may result in litigation.”

Germann says the council has the authority to ignore LMC’s advice, however, the city could lose coverage under the agency’s insurance trust if sued.

Frundt says the LMC has appointed attorney Jeff M. Zalasky to review findings of the investigations and offer legal advice.

Zalasky is the Bloomington attorney who conducted Winnebago’s investigation into misconduct allegations against four City Council members.

Germann says the LMC has become involved so rights of the employees are not violated. Otherwise, any potential discipline could be overturned in court.

The city administrator also addressed the investigation’s high price tag.

He says Setter & Associates’ original estimate of $4,000 to $8,000 was for only looking into allegations against a street department employee.

Later, the council approved an investigation into complaints made against a police officer for the same $4,000 to $8,000 estimate.

A breakdown of Setter’s billing shows the investigation took a total of 169 hours at a rate of $100 an hour.

Also, 136 hours for clerical, transcription and report services totaled $6,800, while $575 was spent on mileage reimbursement and $242 for the printing and copying of reports, and shipping of documents.

Paying for the investigations may not be over.

Frundt has spent time going over the documents.

Under a contract with the city attorney, Frundt could be paid under a monthly retainer fee of $1,000. However, the agreement allows for extra pay at $130 an hour for additional services provided, such as personnel matters.