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Letter to KBEW causes reaction

BE Council discusses it; councilman Huisman offers apology

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Feb 7, 2021

The KBEW radio station in Blue Earth, shown here in a photo from last fall, is located on the east end of Leland Parkway. A letter to the station which was posted on Facebook was the subject of an hour long discussion at last Monday’s Blue Earth City Council meeting.

A letter sent to Blue Earth radio station KBEW by a group of citizens was the focus of a one hour discussion at the beginning of last Monday night’s Blue Earth City Council meeting.

The letter expressed the group’s displeasure over one of the station’s programs featuring Bill O’Reilly commentary.

The letter stated the group was going to suggest to the local DFL Party to pull all their advertising from the station, as well as asking others to boycott advertising on – or listening to – the station.

One of the people signing the letter was Blue Earth City Councilman John Huisman.

“I received many phone calls and emails about this letter,” mayor Rick Scholtes stated at the beginning of the meeting last Monday. “So I had it added to the agenda.”

The mayor first asked Huisman to speak and the councilman explained the reasoning behind the letter’s creation, saying it had evolved over time and much discussion.

“It started in January and went through two or three drafts,” Huisman said. “It was meant to let the station know that their programming was not appreciated by all in the community, and the letter was meant to be put in their file for the FCC to see.”

He then apologized for being part of it and stated that if he had it to do over, he would not be part of it.

“I am sincerely, truly sorry,” Huisman said. “If I could take it back I would take it back. It was never meant to be put out on social media, and I guarantee none of the 14 people who signed it put it on social media. It was also sent to the DFL Party chair and they did not put it on social media either; so it was a station employee.”

Other people in attendance at the meeting were also given the opportunity to speak, including KBEW radio station manager Ron Revere.

“When we first received this letter, I, the owners, our staff and our attorneys, all felt this was a threat to the radio station’s existence, a deliberate attempt to harm our business,” Revere said at first, adding, “It was not one of my employees who put that letter on social media.”

KBEW news director Norm Hall also spoke to the issue, saying he and the other employees were very upset over the letter.

“You reached out to harm our livelihood, that makes it personal,” Hall said. “I want to say that we stay unbiased, middle of the road, in our reporting. I have opinions but I keep them to myself.”

He also pointed out the station airs a program at 8:30 a.m. which is the complete opposite viewpoint of the O’Reilly show.

Another person who spoke was Jaqui Drew, who also signed the letter.

“I wonder what the expectations are of a councilman,” she asked. “Why is this discussed.”

Mayor Scholtes said the employees of the city have a code of conduct to follow which could include council members.

“According to the City Charter, a councilman can be removed from office on a vote of five of the seven members of the council,” Scholtes explained. “But it has to be for ‘just cause.’ I don’t think it is the best thing to do here, because there is no ‘just cause.'”

City attorney David Frundt explained the City Charter does not really list what a violation of the code would be.

Scholtes also explained the public can ask for a recall election, which takes a petition with 250 or more signatures of qualified voters in the city on the petition.

“It would then come before the council and the council would bring forth the election,” he said.

Scholtes also said the council had the option of requesting Huisman resign from the Economic Development Authority (EDA) board, which he serves on.

Councilman Dan Warner said he felt that the backlash from the letter being circulated was enough punishment and there was not a need to ask Huisman to resign from the EDA.

“If the EDA wants him off the board, then so be it,” Warner said. “But, I think we leave it alone.”

Huisman also stated he did not want to resign from the EDA, but he would talk to the board members at the next meeting, which is this Thursday morning.

“I appreciate all the comments everyone has shared, especially the council,” Huisman said. “This has been a fine council to work with. I would like to continue to work together to make this a better place to live.”

KBEW manager Revere also had some final words.

“I want to move on, move forward, I want it to drop,” he said. “I accept John’s apology, we all make mistakes.”

In other business on Monday night, the City Council:

• Held a discussion with members of the Faribault County Humane Society on plans to build a new animal shelter in Blue Earth starting this spring.

First, new agreements will be made as to who will own the building and/or the land the building will be constructed on.

• Approved a proposal from the mayor to forego the liquor license fees for business establishments in Blue Earth, due to the fact many of them were closed for much of 2020 and were not able to sell on-sale liquor last year.

• Approved the mosquito control contract for the 2021 summer season.

• Approved the mayor’s appointment of four new members to the Blue Earth Community Library Board, who were recommended by the library board.

The four are Judy Orvedal, Jacqui Dikken, Dar Holmseth and Sandy Hanson.

• Passed several resolutions dealing with street issues and vacating small pieces of property in the city.