The proposal to convert the Red Wing Mayo building, formerly the St. John’s Hospital, into apartments has been controversial since its proposal in March. Citizens wrote letters to the Republican Eagle, Red Wing Planning Commission and Red Wing City Council, and filled the council chambers when the renovations were on the agenda.
Now, the topic will become more complex because Council member John Becker was granted a harassment restraining order against Pablo Murillo, the development consultant for the project.
Murillo is the founder of Global Mercantile, a consultancy firm for real estate. In the Mayo building project, Murillo is acting as a consultant for the plan, presenting what the company had designed and working to persuade council members to vote for the conditional-use permit required to begin transforming the building into apartments.
Becker, who is the representative for District 2 and lives a few blocks from the old hospital, had questions about the project before the council’s vote. Most of his concerns centered on density in the single-family neighborhood.
Clare Polencheck, an employee of local store, recounted that Murillo and White entered the business looking for Becker and asked a couple of questions about printing. When she said that he was at the Rochester branch of the business, the two men drove to Rochester.
Becker told Judge Lawrence Clark that while in the Rochester shop, Murillo told him a story about Murillo’s wife being nearly beaten to death. Becker also said Murillo stated that he was from Colombia, where they had their own ways of dealing with people. (Murillo is from Bolivia.)
According to Becker, the incident in his shop was unsettling but not worthy of reporting.
When Murillo took the stand, he said that he did not mean to intimidate Becker while in Rochester. He explained that as a businessman, he tries to learn about the people that he is working with and tell them about himself. He also explained that he was interested in Becker’s business because he would like to put murals on the Mayo Professional building’s walls.
Becker decided to request a harassment restraining order after the City Council meeting on July 22. The permit passed 5-2 (Becker voted against) but with the inclusion of conditions, including more parking, a playground and fewer units than originally proposed by Global Mercantile.
After the vote, Becker recounted, Murillo approached him, grabbed his arm and said:
“Do you pray? Because you better start. Your numbers are f---ed.”
Within the next few minutes, Becker told Red Wing Chief of Police Roger Pohlman that he had been threatened and then wrote a short description of the incident, including the above quote.
Murillo told the judge that he had not meant to approach Becker but they were talking toward one another so he stopped to say:
“You pray, and I’m praying and, your numbers are false.”
Murillo went on to explain that people need to pray for the project and its process. He also said that he told Becker his numbers were wrong because he did not calculate density and costs accurately.
After nearly two hours of hearing witnesses, examining and cross examining statements, Clark agreed to grant Becker’s request for a harassment restraining order with a couple of edits. The request was for two years and the order is for one. However, Clark noted that Becker could reapply in a year if he felt the need. Becker also requested a ban of all individual contact with Murillo; Clark allowed it in city meetings. Any other contact is not allowed and Murillo is required to stay away from Becker's business and private property.