DASSEL, MN In what Mayor Ron Hungerford described as a no-win situation, the Dassel City Council terminated the employment of public works employee Jay Evjen during a special city council meeting Wednesday evening.
The meeting, which lasted just over two hours, followed two closed sessions of the city council that took place during previous meetings, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 13D, Subd. 2 (b) that requires a public meeting be closed for preliminary consideration of allegations or charges against an individual subject to its authority.
City Attorney Kurt Greeley began by reading a summary of the charges against Evjen stemming from an incident that took place the evening of Dec. 21, 2019.
Greeley said Evjen drove his private vehicle off the roadway onto private property causing damage to his vehicle and several trees.
According to Greeley, Evjen was transported to his residence by a friend.
After running the license plates on his vehicle, two Wright County deputies found Evjen at his residence.
Deputies initiated field sobriety tests at his home, but Evjen refused to complete all of the tests. He did agree to a preliminary breath test which registered .226, which is more than 2.7 times the legal limit of .04 BAC for commercial drivers. (The limit is .08 for regular drivers licenses.)
At that point, he was arrested on probable cause of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
The breath test advisory was read to him, because more formal testing was required. He was given access to a phone and phone directories, and called his wife and asked her to find him an attorney, according to Greeley.
Although deputies read the breath test advisory to him four more times, Evjen chose to sit quietly for a period of 45 minutes.
After that, he refused further testing.
At that time, the DWI charge was converted to a refusal to take a breathalyzer test charge, which carries an automatic suspension of all driver’s license categories for one year.
No commercial variances are available.
Greeley advised the council to proceed with caution, citing potential insurance liability and precedent concerns.
Evjen acknowledged he had made a bad decision, but noted he has been employed by the city for 14 years, and asked the council to take this into account. He also indicated he thought he would be able to get variances that would allow him to operate most of the city vehicles.
Driving city vehicles is one of the requirements of his position.
Evjen talked about how the situation has affected him and his family, and about steps he has taken to get help.
Greeley stated that Evjen’s licences have been suspended for one year, and even if Evjen were to apply for a variance, this doesn’t mean the State of Minnesota would grant a variance.
After a brief recess, the council discussed its options.
Hungerford commented that the situation has put the city council “between a rock and a hard place.”
He stated that “citizens need to feel comfortable, secure, and safe.”
The position of maintenance worker II requires a valid Minnesota Class B driver’s license. It also requires that employees in this position be “without record of suspension or revocation in any state.”
After discussion, the council voted to dismiss Evjen from employment due to liability issues and potential jeopardy to city safety. The council directed Evjen to return any city property immediately.
Evjen stated he respects the council’s decision.
The council and Public Works Director Mitchell Otten then discussed options for filling the public works position.
The council directed Otten to work with City Clerk/Treasurer Terri Boese to recruit candidates. The council will approve a replacement during a future council meeting.