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No public info in Wells probe

By Staff | May 8, 2010

After two closed-sessions, a meeting with two attorneys for nearly two hours and two slide presentations, the public is being kept in the dark.

As a result, Wells residents may never find out what an investigation of two city employees costing $26,413 reveals.

City Council members on Monday and Tuesday decided no information about the five-month investigations will be made public.

“We just have to follow the legal advice of our counsel and the League of Minnesota Cities,” says Mayor Shannon Savick.

She was referring to City Attorney David Frundt and Bloomington attorney Jeff Zalasky, appointed by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust Fund to help city officials with data privacy issues.

Zalasky says the council is acting in accordance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

However, under a state law dealing with information on public employees a governmental agency must provide:

• the employee’s name and the existence and status of any complaints or charges against the employee;

• whether or not the complaint or charges resulted in a disciplinary action;

• the final disposition of any disciplinary action;

• the specific reasons for the disciplinary action and

• data documenting the basis of the action.

Frundt and Zalasky refused to identify the two employees, release any investigation findings or say if further action was recommended by the investigator.

Prior to the start of Monday’s meeting, Frundt scrolled over slides showing an investigation involving Police Chief Jim Ratelle.

Frundt says he consulted with Zalasky on what information would be presented to the council.

One of the slides indicated the police chief had been exonerated on claims No. 1 and No. 2, but the claim on No. 3 was sustained.

Frundt offered no comment regarding the many complaints against Ratelle.

In the past, the Register has reported the investigations involve a street department employee and police officer.

Wells officials have not refuted the newspaper reports.

At the first closed-session the council’s only action was to approve sending all city staff who deal with private data to training.

Councilman Mike Weber abstained from voting on the motion.

On Tuesday, Councilmen Ron Gaines and Stephen Burns and Savick voted not to take action against an unidentified worker.

Councilor Ashley Seedorf did not vote because she wanted more time to think about it. Weber again abstained from voting.