By Ivan Raconteur and Starrla Cray
MAPLE PLAIN, MN The City of Maple Plain has been dealing with an unprecedented issue the past several months due to the alleged misconduct of its mayor, Roger Hackbarth.
During its Aug. 11 meeting, the city council adopted a resolution of further censure of Hackbarth.
He had previously been censured by the council during its March 10 meeting.
According to the minutes of the Aug. 11 meeting, City Attorney Jeff Carson introduced the resolution, and provided background on the censure.
Carson noted that the council met Aug. 4 to discuss Hackbarth’s behavior. Hackbarth was not present at that meeting.
According to the minutes, the council’s concerns included:
• Hackbarth continues to correspond with employees and others without sending a copy to the acting mayor as directed in the (earlier) censure resolution.
• Hackbarth continues to send e-mails regarding questions or city business to members of the city council, outside of the public forum of a council meeting, creating open meeting law violations.
• Hackbarth continues to behave unprofessionally, with angry outbursts toward the city council members and staff, making a working relationship with either council or staff extremely difficult.
• Hackbarth shared private, employment medical information with persons not authorized to receive such information.
• The city has received complaints from citizens and business owners regarding Hackbarth’s abusive and negative behavior.
Carson noted that the council directed him to provide a resolution of further censure of the mayor.
According to the minutes, the provisions of that resolution include:
• Hackbarth’s pay shall be eliminated.
• Hackbarth is removed from serving on the West Hennepin Public Safety Police Commission.
• The acting mayor shall henceforth chair all regular and special meetings of the city council.
• The mayor shall not be provided any data that is non-public, private, or confidential.
• The mayor shall not attend any closed sessions of the city council where non-public, private, or confidential information is discussed or reviewed.
The city council further requested that Hackbarth resign from the office of mayor.
According to the minutes, resident Judy Sutherland asked if the resolution is asking the mayor to resign, or demanding he resign.
Carson replied that the council can only ask the mayor to resign.
Resident Julie Maas-Kusske asked about further actions if the mayor does not resign.
Carson stated that the city cannot fire the mayor, and that the censure will allow the city to conduct business.
According to the minutes of the March 4 meeting, the concerns that led to the censure of Hackbarth during that meeting included:
• The exhibition of extreme anger in public while representing the city in an official capacity.
• Outbursts of anger and vulgarity in public towards other city council members and staff.
• Exhibition of anger directed towards staff creating an unsafe and unfriendly atmosphere in the workplace.
It was noted that a recent complaint by the city administrator led the city council to authorize an independent investigation, which was presented to the council March 7.
The investigation concluded that Hackbarth’s behavior was inappropriate and created a feeling of discomfort in the workplace.
As a result, the council adopted a resolution during its March 10 meeting stating:
• A formal censure of the mayor is hereby issued by the city council for his continued inappropriate behavior.
• All city council appointments of the mayor to committees, boards, or commissions are hereby rescinded immediately.
• The mayor shall no longer represent the city on any municipal associations.
• The mayor shall have no direct personal contact with any city employee without another employee being present.
• all correspondence from the mayor to city employees, in writing or by any form of electronic communication, shall be copied to the acting mayor.
In addition, the council requested that Hackbarth resign.
The problem arose in January, after a female city employee filed a complaint against Hackbarth, 71, stating that he had made inappropriate comments to her. According to a March 18 article in the Star Tribune, these comments included “telling her that he loved her, asking about her husband and their relationship, and talking about putting up mirrors in the bedroom.”
The employee also reported that Hackbarth repeatedly asked her for hugs.
Although the council has twice asked for Hackbarth’s resignation, the council cannot legally force him to resign. According to The Laker, League of Minnesota Cities General Council Tom Grundhoefter said that in most Minnesota cities including Maple Plain it is nearly impossible to force an elected official to step down.