Red Wing seeks legal opinion, more info about mayor's frac sand involvement
RED WING — An independent investigator will look through Red Wing Mayor Dennis Egan's business dealings at the request of the Red Wing City Council to determine if he has any conflict of interest between his role as the city's leader and his new job as executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council.
The council unanimously voted Monday night for the investigation. They also approved a request for a legal opinion from the Minnesota Attorney General on Egan's situation. The meeting attracted a crowd and one man was escorted out by police after an outburst.
Egan, a long-time lobbyist, was recently hired as executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council, a conglomeration of six private companies with interests in silica sand, gravel and related industries; the company proposing the new silica-related facilities in St. Charles is one of the six. Monday was the first time citizens and the council got to address Egan's decision publicly.
There is no conflict between the two positions, Egan said, and Red Wing City Attorney Jay Squires said that, legally speaking, he agrees.
"For me to pick and choose my livelihood (between) a client of mine and the mayor… I don't think that's a reasonable request," said Egan, who declined comment afterward.
"I believe the mayor has to make a choice: Do you want to be the mayor of Red Wing or the executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council?" said Mike Schultz, a city council member.
Added council president Lisa Bayley: "I agree with the legal opinion that we don't have a legal conflict, but I think we have an inherent (ethical) conflict — a pretty massive inherent conflict."
Dale Hanson, a Red Wing resident, said he plans to initiate the recall process against Egan, who was re-elected to office in November. Hanson would need to gather 2,000 signatures from registered voters to initiate the action.
Egan said he will recuse himself from all discussions, votes and veto opportunities related to the silica sand industry. He got the chance to do so Monday as the city council unanimously approved a resolution asking the state to adopt strong permitting, a state-wide moratorium to allow study of the issue, such as a Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the silica industry.
Wabasha, Winona and St. Charles are among a number of local governmental bodies involved in seeking a compromise on silica sand mining and transporting that can both protect the public and allow the industry to bring jobs and business to the area.
The Minnesota Legislature is expected to take up the issue next week. The issue has thrust Egan into a heated public arena.
"He's the leader of the city and now he's the leader of an organization that is lobbying for sand mining and I think … it makes us look corrupt and unprofessional in a lot of ways," said Amy Nelson, a representative of Save The Bluffs.
"That man is a corrupt man!" former Goodhue County Attorney Dick Johnson said of Egan before being escorted out by police.