Thursday, August 30, 2007

Commissioners Budget Meeting Today

Mary said...

Today at the Budget Workshop, after a question from a commissioner about which jail needed improvements to comply with ADA (Americans with Disabilities), Commissioner Mike Forsman from Ely laughed and said, "that's the sexual harassment jail."

It appears to me that there is a concerted effort on the part of some commissioners to minimize the sexual harassment issue and turn it into crude humor.

August 30, 2007 8:17 PM

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Workshops Very Important ! A point made by a contributor

Anonymous said...

It's even more important to have observers at the Board workshops than at County Board meetings. The regular meetings are taped and shown on public television. The Board workshops are SUMMARIZED in minutes, but some Board members are regularly disrespectful to their staff and one another in these sessions, knowing that there is no record of their behavior.
August 25, 2007 9:45 PM

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Article from Duluth News Tribune

Report flags loophole in St. Louis County harassment policy
Lee Bloomquist Duluth News Tribune
Published Thursday, August 23, 2007
St. Louis County declined in 1998 to investigate an employee’s allegation of sexual harassment against Commissioner Steve Raukar, according to an investigative report on a complaint against Raukar this year. The county clearly took the position nine years ago that complaints against county commissioners would not be investigated or commissioners disciplined, the report said.

However, the report concluded, county employees are entitled to protection from sexual harassment by third parties, no matter who the alleged harassers are.

In the wake of recent sexual harassment complaints against two commissioners, Raukar and Dennis Fink, some have expressed concern that there is no harassment policy for elected county officials.
Duluth News Tribune Talk About It Icon Talk: Should St. Louis County commissioners be subject to a harassment policy? Why or why not?
Duluth News Tribune PDF Icon Raukar investigation
Duluth News Tribune PDF Icon Fink investigation
Lee Bloomquist Archive
“If there is no policy in place and there is no recourse, then something is very wrong with the system,” said Candice Harshner, executive director of the Duluth-based Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault. “If this [the 2007 allegation] hadn’t been investigated, none of us would have known what allegedly happened.”

In 1998, Alan Mitchell was county attorney and Julie Brunner was county administrator. Brunner, now executive director of Minnesota Council of Health Plans, said she doesn’t remember a sexual harassment complaint from 1998. If she had received one, though, she would have referred it to the county attorney, she said.

Mitchell, contacted on his way back from a motorcycle trip out West this week, said he doesn’t recall a complaint being made against Raukar in 1998. However, if a complaint were made, it was county policy that the complaint not be directed to the county attorney, he said.

“If there was a complaint, it would not have been made to me, but to civil service,” said Mitchell.

Tony Bruno, the county’s civil service director and affirmative action officer in 1998, said his office would have looked into a complaint had one been received.

“Of course we would have,” said Bruno. “The alleged complaint was made to Julie Brunner. It was never made to the civil service. Whatever happened between Julie and the complainant, I don’t know, because it was never brought to me. If there was a complaint, it should have been brought to me, but no complaint was brought to civil service in 1998 — either written or verbal.”

Report: Employees due protection

Although county commissioners aren’t subject to the county sexual harassment policy, county employees are entitled to the protection of the policy, said the report, issued in July. Commissioners can be investigated and subject to discipline at least to the same extent as other third parties, clients, spouses, customers and suppliers, according to the report, written by investigator Elizabeth Storaasli, a Duluth lawyer.

Storaasli represented their incoming County Attorney Melanie Ford this year in a suit challenging her salary and budget reductions after defeating Mitchell last fall.

Ellen Quinn, the county’s public information officer, confirmed to the News Tribune this week that she made an oral report to Brunner in 1998 of an alleged sexual harassment incident involving Raukar.

Quinn said she is also the employee who filed a complaint against Raukar in February following an early morning phone call he made to her in a hotel room on an out-of-town trip. Storaasli’s investigation into that complaint found that Raukar “engaged in sexual harassment in the form of verbal contact by telephone including sexual advances or propositions.”

Quinn said she is gratified that action was taken on her 2007 complaint.

“I appreciate the courage Melanie Ford displayed in bringing these things forward, particularly early in her term,” she said.

commissioners answer to voters

Over the past two weeks commissioners have decided on split votes not to censure or discipline Raukar or Fink. Some commissioners say that as elected officials, they and the county attorney, auditor and sheriff historically haven’t been subject to the county’s policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Though they receive full-time paychecks from the county, some commissioners say they’re subject to the will of the voters.

Commissioner Keith Nelson said the votes not to censure Fink or Raukar aren’t a reflection of the seriousness of the allegations but of the current county policy.

“Should there be a code of ethics for elected officials? Yes,” Nelson said. “I absolutely have always believed that. But should we have a policy that is retroactive and looks like the employees’ [policy]? No.”

Harshner said the County Board should have a code of conduct and ethics.

“I would think that anybody should be [subject to a harassment policy],” she said. “If you work anywhere in the county, they are all in the same workplace. Saying you’re not subject to it is like saying that county employees aren’t protected by commissioners if something like this happens.”

According to the 2007 investigation report:

Raukar allegedly called a county employee one afternoon when he was at a conference in 1998 and said, “We should go out and have a few drinks and go dancing.”

A day later, the employee received a call from a person who also was at the conference, saying that Raukar had asked that person, using crude language, whether he had had sex with the employee Raukar called on the phone. The woman said she reported the remark to county officials. Raukar said he had no recollection of such a conversation and said it did not happen.

However, the report said the record confirms the conversations and that Raukar’s alleged telephone call and alleged statements in 1998 constituted sexual advance and unwanted verbal contact about body or appearance.

Raukar could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday.

Victims’ advocates concerned

According to the report, all county commissioners were informed of a sexual harassment training session in 2004. Commissioner Peg Sweeney was the only commissioner to attend the training, according to the report.

Mitchell was a strong supporter of the Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault during his tenure and in his recent re-election bid, as is Ford, Harshner said. But representatives of the group plan to appear at the Sept. 4 County Board meeting in Duluth to express their concern, she said.

“Any time you have allegations of sexual harassment, it concerns us a lot,” she said. “It’s disconcerting to have these allegations out there, much less to have them substantiated.”

Commissioner Bill Kron, chairman of the board, said he plans Sept. 11 to reintroduce a measure that would implement a code of conduct and ethics for all county employees, including elected officials.

Board members would be asked to sign it on a voluntary basis because, Kron said, a future board can’t be bound by a current policy. All county employees will be asked to read and sign the code of conduct, which would include a provision against sexual harassment.

LEE BLOOMQUIST can be reached weekdays at (800) 368-2506, (218) 744-2354 or by e-mail at§ion=News

Meeting on Tuesday, September 4th at 9:30

Kathy Heltzer said...

We are hoping that many people will attend the Board meeting on Tuesday, September 4th at 9:30am at the Courthouse in Duluth. It is important that citizens (voters) voice their concerns with respect to the recent actions by the Board regarding the sexual harassment investigations.

August 24, 2007 7:39 PM

Friday, August 24, 2007


Laws Regarding Counties§ion=375

The laws regarding recall and impeachment are in here

Upcoming County Commissioners Meeting

9:30 courthouse on Thursday August 30th
Budget Workshop

This is a workshop, they don't take formal action but often informally get a sense of who's on what side.

These meetings need observers.

St. Louis County Official Website

This is the one that's current.

St. Louis County Official Website

This is the one that's current.

The Full Reports on Raukar and Fink