Social media posts containing anti-gay slurs and photos of a shed in Canton painted multiple colors have prompted an investigation by the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office.
The Facebook posts have also elicited painful memories and feelings from Brock Bergey, the rural city’s clerk — whom the messages were referencing.
Jamie Knutson, a property owner in Canton, put out a call on Facebook on Saturday for multiple colors of paint. When asked what it was for, Knutson responded it was for something bigger than a car for “our gay f****t ass city administrator.”
A short time later, Knutson posted photos showing the shed painted multiple colors and the building’s broken windows covered.
The Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it is investigating the incident, and staff have forwarded information about it to the Fillmore County Attorney’s Office.
On Sunday, Bergey, who is gay, responded to the public post with a public post of his own.
“Mr. Knutson's bully-like ways drudge up painful memories from the past,” Bergey wrote. “I will not let the hatred spewed by Mr. Knutson, and the like, take me back to a dark place.”
Knutson’s Facebook post and work on the building appear to be in response to a letter the city of Canton sent to him on June 24 stating the shed was in violation of the city’s nuisance ordinance.
Knutson did not respond to a call requesting comment for this article.
Bergey and a deputy from the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office had surveyed properties June 23. Pictures from that outing show a shed on the 200 block of Main Street with peeling paint and broken windows.
Bergey and Canton Mayor Donivee Johnson said the current city council is working to better enforce the city’s nuisance ordinance and follow through on violations.
Bergey said the ordinance isn’t any more stringent than others like it, and it was adopted in 2015 from a boilerplate policy provided by the League of Minnesota Cities. He said Knutson and his property wasn’t singled out in the enforcement and that nine other properties were cited in violation from the June 23 survey and 15 other properties were identified in violation of the ordinance earlier in the year.
“All of them have been handled in the same manner,” Bergey said.
Johnson said the personal attack on Bergey and his response don’t necessarily involve the city and Bergey’s public response was issued by him personally on his own time and not via official city channels or platforms.
“It’s a personal attack on a city employee,” Johnson said. “The whole community has been supportive of Mr. Bergey.”
Johnson said efforts to enforce the nuisance ordinance are part of an effort to improve life for everyone in the city and boost property values.
“People are entitled to live on their property and not have to look at junk cars and piles of tires,” she said.
Bergey grew up in the Canton area and graduated from Mabel-Canton High School in 1996, and after a career in broadcast media, he took the city clerk position in Canton in June of last year.