Red Wing council member kicked off committees after disagreement
Council Member Kim Beise, the lone vote against firing then-Police Chief Roger Pohlman, was removed from five ad hoc committee assignments.
RED WING — Red Wing City Council Member Kim Beise was surprised to find out his presence was not required.
Beise said he was preparing to attend the Service Contracts committee when he was informed he was no longer a member of that board. In addition, he was also removed from the cable franchise, marina, finance and audit, and social justice and equity committees.
"It was my vote on the recall," Beise said, pointing out that he was the only council member whose vote was in favor of holding a special recall election for council members Andy Klitzke, Laurel Stinson and Becky Norton. "I said I was not sure we might not have violated the open meeting law."
The Red Wing Recall City Hall group has collected enough valid signatures to recall five members of the Red Wing City Council with the group still working to recall Council Member Dean Hove, who had enough signatures collected against him, but an error was found with the five signatures that started the process against Hove.
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The group did not collect enough signatures to recall Beise, who was the only council member who voted against firing then-Police Chief Roger Pohlman.
At the May 24 city council meeting, Beise said he was unsure the city had not violated Minnesota's open meeting law when it closed a meeting to discuss the firing of Pohlman. He added that he planned to look into the issue on his own outside the advice of City Attorney Amy Mace.
"Of course, the city attorney will defend them," Beise said, adding that going into closed session on the basis of attorney-client privilege was done on her advice. "She’s going to side with the city."
But Beise said there were things discussed during that Feb. 19 meeting that fell outside the scope of attorney-client privilege.
"From what I remember, and because there’s no documentation available to me, I questioned what we were discussing was only attorney-client advice," Beise said.
Beise's comments from the May 24 meeting rubbed Council Member Evan Brown the wrong way.
"I asked not to serve on these committees with with Council Member Beise because he insinuated that we all possibly violated the open meeting law, those being his words," Brown said.
He added that Mace has provided case law showing the city council had not violated the open meeting law, but he has not seen any contradictory case law.
"(If) Beise does not trust the advice of the city attorney and city staff, or at the least seek clarification, I cannot trust that he will not act in the same manner again," Brown said, adding that, like other members of the city council, Beise also voted to go into closed session on Feb. 19. "(If) Council Member Beise believes he violated the OML, I think he should resign."
Brown sent an email to Council President Norton asking asking that the two no long work together on any committees, and that Beise particularly be removed from "all service contract committees."
"I believe your statement and subsequent vote had the intent of placing the city at legal risk and financial burden," Brown wrote.
Beise said the effect of removing him from those committees equated to punishing him for having an opposing opinion, and for asking questions about the advice the city has received about both the recall and holding a closed meeting.
While she admitted she did not discuss his removal – she called and left a message and emailed Beise – before taking action, she said any council member who cannot work with city staff to discuss issues and concerns and feel confident that what they are bringing to the full council is in the best interest of the city, then that individual cannot properly serve the community on those committees.
"He will continue to have input as all council members do," Norton said. "One could say yes, his direct involvement in these committees is a consequence of him not bringing these concerns forward to work through them."
Beise said he understands that as council president, Norton can make changes to the committee assignments. But he asked why he had to be removed if it was Brown who had the problem of the two of them serving together.
"If Evan doesn’t want to work with me, why doesn’t he get off the committees?" Beise asked. "I can’t have a different viewpoint. If you have a different viewpoint, they redirect and bully you."