Council member Kirkpatrick: How Dennis censure happened was unfair

Rochester council member said more time was needed to consider options before March 6 action to reprimand fellow council member

Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick 02.JPG
Rochester City Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick speaks at a city council meeting Aug. 2, 2021.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — A Rochester City Council member voiced regret Monday related to how a March 6 censure of of a fellow elected official unfolded

“I think this was unfair,” council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick said of the action that was not part of the council’s planned March 6 agenda. “We had limited time to review the resolution.”

Kirkpatrick, who was one of four council members who voted to approve the censure, said more time to review the document might have led to a modified outcome, with clarity that only some council members have had problematic conflicts with Dennis.

She said she might have also suggested shortening the restriction on in-person meetings with city staff, which is currently in place for the rest of the year.

While she stopped short of suggesting the modifications Monday, she pointed to future options.


“I acknowledge those who voted in the affirmative to approve the censure can bring an amendment forward at any time to change the resolution, should there be a reason to do so,” she said.

At the same time, she said she had reasons for supporting the reprimand.

“I voted in favor of the censure based on council member Dennis’ significant use of time and resources and her conduct or statement that created a legal liability for the city.” she said, echoing some of the specific examples released in a city email to media outlets on Monday.

During the March 6 meeting, council member Patrick Keane said his reason for taking immediate action was to avoid prolonging the effects of the proposed action by leaving the issue lingering without a decision.

“This is the most transparent method to bring action while still being expedient,” he said, later pointing out that the council action did not require court-like litigation to proceed.

Kirkpatrick said a delay could have provided time for more clarity on concern and offered a chance for residents to weigh in, since the issue was added to the agenda after the meeting’s public-comment period.

“The public could not review the resolution while council considered the existing, but nonspecific evidence with the document,” she said.

While Kirkpatrick voiced concern about the lack of awareness of the action prior to the March 6 meeting, Dennis raised accusations that multiple council members were aware of the potential action.


“I heard from a resident that this warrants investigation,” she said.

During an interview before the Monday night's meeting, Dennis said the unnamed resident alleged council members Shaun Palmer and Mark Bransford had knowledge of resolution's content before it was presented to the public, but the council members denied the accusations when the issue was raised publicly.

“I read it the same time you read it,” Palmer told Dennis during Monday’s meeting.

Bransford, who was absent during the March 6 meeting, also said he didn’t see the censure resolution before it was public, and council members Norman Wahl and Kirkptrick said the same.

Dennis continued to push for a council-directed investigation, but failed to get support.

“I think the point of being on City Council is that one person can’t make anything happen,” Council President Brooke Carlson said. “We have to act as a collective body.”

It was a sentiment that echoed a written statement released by City Administrator Alison Zelms earlier in the day.

“City Council work is by its nature collaborative,” she wrote. “In fact, no council member can accomplish larger policy goals alone; it requires a majority vote of the City Council.”


Statement From City Administrator Alison Zelms by randy on Scribd

Carlson said Dennis has received a form to file a complaint with the city’s Ethical Practices Board earlier in the day, and City Attorney Michael Spindler-Krage said other avenues exist to raise concerns about how an elected body conducts business.

“There is a process for anyone — council member or citizen — to report a question about open meeting law violation,” he said.

A request for opinion regarding an alleged violation of a meeting law can be sent to the Minnesota Department of Administration for review.

Palmer, however, questioned the merits of such action.

“There is nothing to investigate, because you have four people who are on the city council who said that they did not see it until you saw it,” he said. “I don’t know what more of an investigation you would like.”

The discussion, which also included Dennis’s concerns about limits under the censure, was cut off when Spindler-Krage recommended the council adjourn and members voted to end the meeting as Dennis continued to speak.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
What To Read Next
Get Local