By Starrla Cray
MONTROSE, MN At a special meeting last Monday, the Montrose City Council voted to censure council member Scott Czanstkowski for two instances of harassment against administrative assistant Kristine Richter.
Earlier this year, Richter had submitted two grievances to the council regarding comments Czanstkowski allegedly made to her.
Czanstkowski submitted a written response stating that he had been falsely accused, so the council hired Buffalo attorney William Everett of Everett and Vanderwiel to investigate the issue.
The legal expenses associated with the investigation conducted by Everett & Vanderwiel totaled $18,628.
The investigation concluded that Czanstkowski violated the city’s harassment/respectful workplace policy during a phone conversation he had with Richter April 19, in which Czanstkowski had called Richter to report a dog running at large.
During her interview with the investigator, Richter stated Czanstkowski had been “screaming” and “yelling” at her, and that, after the phone call, she was upset, anxious, and worried about losing her job.
When Czanstkowski was interviewed, he denied being upset with Richter during the phone call. However, he told the investigator that when he talks fast, others may think he is angry.
Richter also stated that, on a separate occasion, Czanstkowski came into city hall while both Swanson and Manson were gone, and as he was leaving, told Richter that “no matter what he said to [her] ultimately it came down to his word against [hers].”
The investigator concluded that this comment was also harassing.
At last Monday’s meeting, the council discussed what type of action, if any, to take against Czanstkowski.
City Attorney Sarah Schwarzhoff presented three options, including do nothing, request Czanstkowski’s resignation, or issue a censure (official reprimand).
After a lengthy discussion, the council voted 3-1 for the censure, with council members Roy Henry, Scott Jensen, and Mayor Andy Kauffman in favor, and Council Member Ryan Andreae opposed. Czanstkowski abstained.
The censure is an acknowledgement that Czanstkowski’s behavior was inappropriate.
Andreae stated he did not feel a censure was strong enough consequence, and instead wanted to ask for Czanstkowski’s resignation, according to city administrator Barb Swanson.
About 30 people attended the meeting, including Lloyd Johnson and Cal Rolfzen, who were escorted out of the meeting by police for speaking out of turn, according to Swanson.
“The emotions were running pretty high,” she said. “It was not a good night for anybody.”