Sunday, September 30, 2007

another great letter in the News Tribune

and another great letter was published in the Duluth News Tribune today, keep 'm coming!

Civility was lacking atcounty board workshop

Watching the county commissioners discuss issues at a Sept. 18 workshop turned out to be rather interesting. They expressed some informed opinions, listened to each other, and aside from some personal rants (that are a politician’s prerogative) and some nonverbal posturing when colleagues spoke, it wasn’t too bad a morning. The people around the table were quite aware of those of us there to observe how they conducted business.

Then Commissioner Dennis Fink, after orating at length with a degree of irrationality about the notion of prioritizing correct environmental purchases for county departments, seemed to lose control when Commissioner Peg Sweeney challenged (with just a look) his statement that the county holds $4.2 million of inventory at this time. He shouted that it was all in the budget publication, launched that bound book across the table in Sweeney’s direction, with Commissioner Steve O’Neil helping to bring it to a stop. When Sweeney spoke next, she chided Fink telling him that was childish behavior. He shot back, “Well, just throw it back at me.” (“Sweeney claims Fink threw book at her,” Sept. 26, and Our View, “Mommmmmmmmmmyyyyy!” Sept. 27.)

I also was mystified by the repeated references to people needing social services coming to St. Louis County from Chicago always directed toward O’Neil, who patiently maintained a pleasant demeanor in spite of what began to look like badgering. Ann Busche, director of Public Health and Human Services, explained that St. Louis County is bound by exactly the same Minnesota state rules as the other 86 counties and that the county does not hand out services lavishly. That did nothing to stop the lamentations of helping folks from Chicago while looking at O’Neil.

I expected to see respectful interaction (both verbal and nonverbal) between commissioners. And I expect commissioners to listen to their employees.

Phyllis Mead


Friday, September 28, 2007

introductions are in order

Dear readers,

I just invited myself to become a blogger on this great new blog, so I figured introductions are in order. I am a 36 year old mother who lives in Duluth. I am sharing the mother bit with you all because it’s is part of the reason I became involved in the “We are watching” campaign. You see, I have a son, and I do not want my son to grow up and behave like some of our County Commissioners, no Fink for a role model please. Also I want my son to be able to stand up for injustices as he sees them. I want County Commissioners to be accountable; they make important decisions that effect all of us. I think that Commissioner O’Neill has been trying to convince the board to hold their meetings in the evening so more citizens could come and listen in, accountability according to this commissioner is a good thing, and maybe this idea should be revisited. Until then I will take time out of my busy day as much as I can and watch our commissioners at work. Do join.


Readers' views in Duluth News Tribune on Sept 28

I was happy to see this letter in today's (Sept 28th) Duluth News Tribune. I could not agree more with what Trevor had to say. Except perhaps with his statement that "His (Forsman's) statement would be expected from a hormone-crazed, 14-year-old boy". If I was a 14 year old boy, I'd object, but then again, I've never been one...
Thank you Trevor!

County Board members attempt to play the victim

St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Forsman’s response to the campaign of the We are Watching group would be comical if it wasn’t so indicative of a serious incapacity to recognize the importance of ethical behavior from elected officials (“County will craft code,” Sept. 5). Residents of St. Louis County should be concerned that an individual with such a deficit wields the power that Forsman does.

If Forsman is serious that he is incapable of discerning the difference between looking at a woman and ogling her, he lacks a level of self-awareness and self-control that would be expected in a responsible adult. His statement would be expected from a hormone-crazed, 14-year-old boy, not an elected official. Perhaps Forsman’s constituents should consider whether this level of maturity is adequate to earn their votes when he’s up for re-election.

Forsman’s accusation of white-male hatred is completely without merit. Certainly he noticed that other white male commissioners were not the subjects of the protest group’s action, but only those who made inappropriate advances on female employees of St. Louis County. This issue is not about white men, it is about men in elected office who have sexually harassed women working for the county.

Finally, Forsman’s suggestion that the We are Watching group and its supporters are analogous to the racist mob who lynched three innocent black men in Duluth in 1920 is completely off base and demonstrates a broad-ranging ignorance of the issues at hand. Holding elected officials accountable for their behavior is not the same as murdering three men because they are African American. Forsman clearly feels like a victim, but he isn’t one, and neither are Commissioners Dennis Fink (“Fink faces accusations of improper comments and stares,” Aug. 16) or Steve Raukar (“County inquiry focuses on hotel phone calls,” Aug. 4). Only the privilege white men hold in this society would allow the consequences of unethical behavior to be mistaken for victimization.

Trevor Swoverland

Two Harobrs

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

County commissioner gets touchy over X-rated issues


Wednesday, September 26, 2007 Volume 18, Issue 38

County commissioner gets touchy over X-rated issues
By Nancy Jo Tubbs

Note to County Commissioner Mike Forsman: Lose the sunglasses. A white, middle class, middle-aged ex-Marine with a well paid job and powerful political position doesn’t get to claim victimhood.

By now you may know that Forsman showed up at the St Louis County Commissioners’ meeting in Duluth on September 4 wearing sunglasses after independent investigators recommended that two commissioners, Dennis Fink and Steve Raukar, be censured for violating the county’s sexual harassment policy. With Forsman voting for Raukar and Fink, the commission decided 3-3 in each case, not to censure the commissioners.

The reason for Forsman’s sunglasses: “Because I’m not smart enough to know when a glance turns into a look and a look turns into an ogle,” he told the Duluth News Tribune.

Okay, the difference between looking and ogling may be in the eye of the beholder, but in the case of Commissioner Raukar, the charges included unwelcome late night and 1 a.m. phone calls of a graphic sexual nature asking to come to the hotel room of a female county employee. (Raukar said they were just invitations to come down to his room for a drink, for which he has apologized to his family, the commission and the employee.) Forsman would have to stop using the phone to more accurately protest the charges against his fellow commissioner.

Mike and I graduated from high school together and both attend Democratic caucus meetings. I think he’s a good Iron Range representative, and we’re often on the same side of the political barricades, but at times we disagree. After a congenial two-hour conversation this past week in Mike’s kitchen and after reading the investigative reports listing charges against commissioners Raukar and Fink (which you can see at, this is one of those disagreements.

Mike, take off the sunglasses, buddy. From here they just look like blinders. The reasons Mike gives for voting against the censure are statements of old fashioned sexism seasoned by paranoia: The women sometimes wore short skirts and revealing tops. They were out to sucker in a couple of nice guys, nail them with harassment charges and come out of the deal with better jobs. Mike strongly believes harassment shouldn’t be tolerated—the kind where the guy is groping his secretary or chasing her around the desk—but he considers Raukar’s and Fink’s transgressions “benign.” Ellen Quinn, then county public information officer, who charged Raukar, isn’t a timid “poster child for sexual harassment,” Mike says, since he noted Ellen didn’t mind telling or hearing a dirty joke in mixed company, was known to aggressively chew out a secretary, and seemed like Raukar’s friend.

I thought we’d finished back in the ‘70s with the goofy reasoning that a woman’s short skirt is a green light for men’s bad behavior. (At the risk of irritating the sisterhood, I do think that women can be kind to their co-workers of both genders by dressing modestly so as not to distract the menfolk.) But, it’s a far stretch to believe that a sane person would go through the misery of bringing sexual harassment charges in the hopes of landing a better job.

“Anyone who has gone forward and actually said the words out loud—sexual harassment— should get the Purple Heart,” JoAnn Burns wrote in Minnesota Women’s Press about her experience as a whistleblower. “It’s lonely. Be prepared for heartache. Be prepared for everything you have done in your life to be dredged up. The company will want to make it look like you have no credibility—the bill you forgot to pay in 1980 will become an issue.”

About 50 members of a new group, We are Watching, showed up September 4 to protest the commissioners’ non-censure vote. Quinn spoke to them and others in the chamber.

“Ask yourself why anyone would bring forth false or trumped-up charges,” she said. “To endure a year-long ordeal, being called a liar and worse in the media, having one’s name exposed in the press? Through no fault of my own, my life will never be the same.”

The listeners applauded.

Forsman said the crowd was made up of folks who are not his constituents—but rather members of the Blue-Green Alliance and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—who looked angry and intimidating.

“This reminds me of the mob mentality that lynched three black men in Duluth,” he said, playing the ultimate victim card. Enough, already, with the dramatizing!

When it came right down to a vote, a key factor for some was that the commissioners are elected officials to whom county employee policies don’t apply. The commission subsequently voted unanimously to develop a code of conduct and ethics that would cover commissioners and other elected officials, the county attorney, sheriff and auditor. Okay. Good vote, Mike.

In our discussion Mike outlined some guidelines he thinks should be in the policy. The behavior would actually need to be “unwelcome.” The victim needs to say “stop it.” And the charges need to be made within a certain time frame. That sounds fair.

Just remember the power differential. In a work relationship, the more powerful person is often unaware of his or her effect on workers down the chain-of-command. If you can have subordinates disciplined or fired, they’re liable to jump to comply even if your behavior or request is inappropriate, untimely or ridiculous. For the person down the ladder, it may seem very risky to question your behavior or say no to your request. Speaking truth to power isn’t easy.

County Administrator Dana Frey was asked by the commission to develop by October 10 a new policy that covers elected officials. The policy should fill in details about the many forms of sexual harassment and require harassment sensitivity workshops to ratchet up everybody’s understanding of appropriate boundaries.

Anyone who is a victim of sexual harassment needs to know that their employer will take their complaint seriously and won’t tolerate retaliation. Those who have done anything that could be considered sexual harassment need to understand that they could be disciplined— even lose their jobs.

It’s time to take off the blinders, toughen up and insist on policy that protects ourselves, the people we love and other members of our community.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Comments from Readers

VH said...

This kind of behavior continues to be disappointing and obviously demonstrates the importance of continuing to pay attention to what is actually happening not only at the Board meetings, but at the workshops as well!

Thanks to those who continue to "watch"

September 19, 2007 7:52 PM

Anonymous said...

And, ever the gentleman, Mr. Fink the following day commented to Sweeney in the hall at the courthouse, "About the book throwing, if I had meant to hit you, I wouldn't have missed." Always a class act!

September 20, 2007 2:47 PM

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fink does not get it. He just does not understand that his behavior is the problem. He's making other people's lives miserable and he does not seem to care.

He perceives this as something that can be handled by a policy. He wants to distance it from him and make it clean and cold and someone else's problem.

It's not someone else's problem

It's Dennis Fink's problem and he cannot seem to grasp that regardless of whether he feels something he has done is rude or intimidating or crude - if the person on the receiving end perceives it so, then it is.

Peg Sweeney may decide to let it go and get along, it would be understandable, but still stressful for her. Mr. Fink's assistant got sick of being called "foxy" and being leered at and called into his office for no reason and now she's moved across the hall and he's got a new assistant coming.

Perhaps Mr. Fink has to get along or be put in an off site location where he cannot offend. Why should others have to be moved around to suit him? It's costing the taxpayers a great deal of money to deal with this.

September 20, 2007 9:08 PM

Comments from readers

Anonymous said...

What I cannot believe is that this is not getting more coverage in our local media (did you see anything in the paper?) Until more residents tune themselves in to what is happening with the Board, I suppose this behavior will continue. Dennis Fink has obviously not learned a thing from the recent investigation into his other conduct and clearly thinks that any "rules" of acceptable behavior in a civil society do not apply to him.

Kudos to this blog for "watching"!

September 22, 2007 4:23 PM
Anonymous said...

Fink's behavior is beyond childish--it's getting a little dangerous. I hope this issue gets in to the letters to the editor section of the paper at the very least. There should be NO tolerance of this kind of temper tantrum. In what business place would such antics be acceptable?

September 23, 2007 1:58 PM

Friday, September 21, 2007

Peg Sweeney Stands for Dignity

Channel 10 News Reports tonight that Peg Sweeney has requested that Dennis Fink be reprimanded by the St. Louis County board for his inappropriate and rude behavior at Tuesday's County Board Workshop. As reported below, Dennis Fink threw a book at County Commissioner Sweeney. His only reported comment on the matter was directed to Peg Sweeney the next day and he is quoted as saying "If I'd meant to hit you I would have."

There is great support for Peg in the community, and we applaud your dignified response. You are in a good position to demand respectful treatment for all members at all times. No individual should be permitted to intimidate or devalue anyone else who is a representative of any other district, any employee of the county, nor any citizen.

Where is the line these people must cross before the others rise up and say enough?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another Letter to the Editor Regarding Sexual Harrassment

Readers’ views for Sept. 19
Duluth News Tribune
Published Wednesday, September 19, 2007
County Board has duty to lead against harassment

This letter is to express my dismay at the recent situation regarding sexual harassment complaints against two county commissioners (“County will craft code,” Sept. 5).I have worked for ending violence against women since 1978 and have seen the progress our community has made in the past 30 years.

While there still is work to do, domestic violence and sexual assault are no longer acceptable. State and community agencies have adopted policies against sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and have provided training for their staff on these issues. Duluth and the Iron Range have become known as international models on community response to violence against women. People travel from around the world to learn about this work.

Imagine my surprise when I read articles in the newspaper that indicate some of our county commissioners don’t seem to know what sexual harassment is. It is time for our elected officials to adopt and enforce the same sexual harassment policies that most public and private agencies are required to have.

I assume that St. Louis County commissioners are good people with good hearts or they wouldn’t have been elected. I ask that they do the right thing now, accept responsibility, apologize and attend sexual harassment training. There are many experts in our area who can provide the much-needed training on this issue. The County Board should serve as a model of respect and cooperation that others strive to emulate.

I appreciate that some commissioners understand the gravity of this situation and I thank Commissioners Peg Sweeney, Steve O’Neil and Bill Kron for taking a stand against sexual harassment.

Coral McDonnell


Incident at Commissioners Workshop Sept. 17

To express their opinions and views Mike Forsman waxes poetic about diesels and Dennis Fink uses electrical analogies. I find myself also harking back to my profession while observing the September 18th board of commissioners' Workshop at the Public Works building. As an educator, I gather a lot of information from observations. I would have happily handed out stickers for effort in what appeared to be a civil and even at times informed discussion about environmental practices of the various branches of county government. Apparently some of those boys did their homework.

I was less than pleased with some of the nonverbal demeaning expressions and occasional whispering between a couple of individuals. Perhaps a little talk out in the hallway could have dealt with that irksome behavior. But I really would assign an essay to Dennis Fink (100 words or less) titled, "A Better Way Than Throwing a Booklet at a Peer to Express an Idea" as a result of his harsh words and good aim in responding to a Peg Sweeney comment.

Oh, and the strategy of all strategies in a classroom: I would definitely work out a different seating arrangement.

Phyllis Mead

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ely Timberjay Letters to the Editor

Monday, September 17, 2007 Volume 18, Issue 37

Forsman making a mockery of sexual harassment
By Letter to the editor from Carol Orban- Ely, Minn.

I'm surprised that no one else has written a letter pointing out Mike Forsman's dubious contribution to the ongoing conflicts among the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Forsman voted against censuring either Commissioner Fink or Commissioner Raukar. Not only does Mr. Forsman not understand the seriousness of sexual harassment, he has made a mockery of it.

I met for an hour with Mike Forsman and have read both the redacted April and July reports on the Commissioner Raukar sexual harassment incident and the minutes of the meeting at which the censure of Raukar was voted down before the final report was even submitted.

First of all, he does not believe that the board should have any oversight role by which to police its members. In effect, he does not seem to think commissioners need to answer to anyone except their constituents next election time. He doesn't think a censure should happen, period, no matter what the circumstances. This gives commissioners� aides and assistants basically no recourse, as they would have if a county employee were the alleged perpetrator.

Second, did I say Mike doesn't get it? He does not understand that sexual harassment is a bona fide problem in the workplace. The gall to wear sunglasses to a public meeting as some kind of statement that he doesn't want to be accused of ogling. Even worse is for him to compare the group of concerned citizens who came to the Sept. 4 meeting to a lynch mob. Oh, c'mon. It's downright embarrassing. It's also troubling. That's a slap in the face of democratic principles.

It's true that sexual harassment is often difficult to prove because it is usually done in secret and doesn't leave the kind of evidence that remains after a crime. However, all workplaces are required to have policies and procedures by which allegations can be investigated and perpetrators can be dealt with. Both Raukar and Fink received due process. For a few county commissioners to kill any further action through a procedural technicality is unacceptable, and Mike Forsman was more than happy to go along with it.

I am glad that the commissioners have agreed to draft a code of ethics for elected county officials. I hope we all pay attention as this process moves forward.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Letters to the Editor in DNT

There have been a number of recent letters to the Editor in the Duluth News Tribune related to the conduct of members of the County Board. Here are some:

County Board members must be held accountable

As a woman, a former employee of St. Louis County and a resident of St. Louis County, I am almost at a loss for words regarding two recent actions — or, more accurately, inactions — of the County Board pertaining to sexual harassment complaints by two female county employees (“Ford investigates complaints against two commissioners,” May 23).

First, there was the investigation of Commissioner Steve Raukar for allegedly having made sexually explicit phone calls to a county employee. The investigative report recommended he be censured, but Commissioners Keith Nelson, Dennis Fink and Mike Forsman voted down the idea (“Reprimand of Raukar fails on tie board vote,” Aug. 8).
Duluth News Tribune Web Icon Sept. 13: More readers’ views
Then there was a report by the county that found “some factual support” for allegations by another county employee against Commissioner Dennis Fink, accusing him of engaging in “harassing behavior” (“Fink faces accusations of improper comments and stares,” Aug. 16). Raukar joined Forsman and Nelson in voting against the resolution to censure Fink.

What kind of message does this send to the voters and citizens of St. Louis County, never mind employees who are subjected to this kind of conduct?

I’m fortunate to be represented by Commissioner Steve O’Neil, but this does not give me much comfort, given the present makeup of the County Board and its obvious disregard for women (and men) of conscience in this county.

At the County Board’s meeting on Sept. 4, county residents who have been watching these events and saying to themselves, “I should do something,” did. We launched a watchdog campaign in the hopes of prompting more accountability and civility from the seven-member County Board (“Board gets a watchdog,” Sept. 4).

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” County residents cannot be silent on this issue.

Kathy Heltzer


The writer is an organizer of the We Are Watching group.


Time to rein in county’s ‘good ol’ boys’ club’

I want to commend the News Tribune on its excellent coverage of the sexual harassment complaints against two St. Louis County commissioners (“County will craft code,” Sept. 5). At the same time, the situation is very sad and troublesome.

Commissioners Steve O’Neil, Bill Kron and Peg Sweeney voted correctly that action of some sort be taken. The remaining commissioners were very wrong in their votes to do nothing. As residents, it’s important we support the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault in its appearance before the St. Louis County Board on Sept. 4 to rectify the lack of a harassment policy that includes elected officials.

Residents should call their county commissioner and demand dignity and justice. The “good ol’ boys’ club” must end.

Dennis Frazier



Forsman’s sophomoric outlook was insulting

After St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Forsman appeared at a County Board meeting wearing sunglasses and declaring he is “not smart enough to know when a glance turns into a look and a look turns into an ogle,” I found myself wondering if he, indeed, is smart enough to oversee the county’s business (“Board gets a watchdog,” Sept. 4).

I am insulted as a resident and as a woman by Forsman’s childish response to the very serious issue of sexual harassment, which recently has come to light (“Ford investigates complaints against two commissioners,” May 23).

Forsman’s smart-aleck attitude was something I’d expect from a high school sophomore, not a county commissioner. He should be ashamed of himself, and he should try wearing a dunce cap, instead of the sunglasses, to the next County Board meeting.

Judith Cherveny



Forsman made untenable connection to lynching
The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Inc. board is appalled by County Commissioner Mike Forsman’s comments that the investigation of alleged sexual harassment charges against fellow commissioners reminded him of “the mob mentality that lynched three black men in Duluth” (“County will craft code,” Sept. 5).

There is no comparison between the lawful collection of evidence to define specific incidents such as sexual harassment and the extrajudicial actions of a lynch mob that murdered three innocent young men. We who have studied the 1920 lynching consider attempts to draw any parallel as a serious misinterpretation of the heinous crimes against Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie and of the historical impact of lynching on black people.

We call on our elected officials to demonstrate accountability, integrity and character when questioned on existing organizational policy regarding workplace harassment, rather than plead persecution. We urge all citizens to educate themselves about an atrocity that wounded our community in ways that have yet to be healed. The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial board members, and the organization’s Web site and discussion guide, all are available as resources, as is Michael Fedo’s book, “The Lynchings in Duluth,” and the memorial plaza at First Street and Second Avenue East.

Treasure Jenkins

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A poster commented

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that I live in a day and age when men who believe they have a little power because of their elected position will take advantage of others who they percieve to be inferior. I liken this to what others have called "a good old boys" club. There are many professional, intelligent and respectful people in St Louis County(men and women, in Duluth and on the Iron Range) who feel that the actions of these "men" are absurd and sad. I hope that the code of ethics does what it is supposed to but I am afraid that these so-called officials are fundamentally flawed and cannot be fixed by a code of conduct. It makes me sad to see that our local government has been hindered by the actions of these few people.
September 11, 2007 7:30 PM

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Almanac North

County Commissioners appeared on Almanac North to discuss the current situation. Commissioners Nelson and Forsman defended their positions and portrayed the situation as a union activity.

Commissioner O'Neil spoke truthfully and gave hope for progress in formulating a code of ethics that all would abide by.

They gave a phone number for public comment.

Almanac North 728-0070

Call and tell them what you think of the County Commissioners

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Residents speak out to county board-Ely Timberjay

It looks like the "We are Watching" campaign is getting some coverage in the Ely area as well...maybe Commissioner Forsman will get some calls and e-mails from voters in his district...we can only hope! Here is the article from the Timberjay:

Saturday, September 08, 2007 Volume 18, Issue 36

Residents speak out to county board
By Marshall Helmberger

There were more angry words at this week’s St. Louis County board meeting, but in the end commissioners found agreement on the need for better behavior from the county’s elected officials.
St. Louis County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to direct the county administrator to work with other elected county officials to draft a code of ethics. The board gave County Administrator Dana Frey until Oct. 10 to report back on his progress. Currently, county ethics rules apply only to employees of the county, but not to elected officials.

The vote came following an at times contentious county board meeting during which as many as 50 county residents turned out to voice their frustrations with the board and its handling of recent sexual harassment complaints against Dennis Fink and Steve Raukar.

The residents were part of a newly-formed organization calling itself “We Are Watching,” whose mission is to increase public awareness and involvement over county decision-making. Members of the group wore scarlet A’s during the meeting, to underscore their desire for accountability from the board and they called for a code of ethics for commissioners.

Group spokesperson Kathy Heltzer, a UMD employee, said frustration with the board has been building for months, but that the board’s refusal to take action on harassment reports was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” “We felt it was a matter of social justice. We just can’t sit by anymore,” she said. Heltzer said the group hoped to improve the level of debate at the county board. “We’re not attacking anyone, but we want to raise the bar, to be more civil.”

The group has also launched a new website at that will provide updates on county board actions. The website also provides links to two recently completed county investigations into allegations against Raukar and Fink.

If the group hoped to tone down the rhetoric at board meetings, at least one commissioner wasn’t willing to follow along. Commissioner Mike Forsman lobbed several verbal grenades during the day, at various points referring to the new organization as a “mob,” and accusing three fellow commissioners of serving as puppets for the AFSCME union, which represents many county employees. Forsman also said he recognized some members of the newly-formed group, who he said were part of a blue-green coalition that has supported progressive Democrats at DFL conventions. Forsman said many of them appeared angry and he said he was fearful at times for his safety during Tuesday’s board meeting. He said the group shared the same mentality that led to the lynching of three black men in Duluth in the early 1900s. “Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I saw a mob in front of me,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.

Commissioner Steve O’Neil said he found the group respectful, even though some members were clearly upset. O’Neil said most in the group were older women. “It wouldn’t be a group I’d be fearful of,” he said.

But Forsman’s fears have prompted other unusual actions— such as wearing sunglasses whenever he’s in Duluth. Forsman, who charged Tuesday that county government has become hostile to white men, says he’s wearing the glasses to protect himself from false charges that he might be ogling women.

“It’s a safety thing,” said Forsman. “When I’m in Duluth where the blue-green coalition and AFSCME are based, I’m worried they may use something like that against me because I’m not following their agenda.”

O’Neil said he’s seen no indication that AFSCME has taken any interest at all in the sexual harassment issue. “They’ve never spoken to me about it or been present at any meetings on it,” said O’Neil. Neither of the women who filed the actual harassment complaints were members of a union. “I really don’t know what Commissioner Forsman is talking about,” O’Neil said.

Forsman’s actions left others perplexed as well. He drew fire from fellow board members for wearing the sunglasses and his comments likening citizens addressing the county board to a lynch mob, were panned in a Duluth News-Tribune editorial on Wednesday.

Kevin Skwira-Brown, a St. Scholastica instructor and member of We Are Watching, said Forsman’s comments reflect the kind of language that has raised concerns with many in his group. “When a commissioner accuses others of being puppets when they stand up for human rights, or a mob that lynches people, we’re really getting off track,” he said.

Skwira-Brown said the tone of the county board has become the issue, not disagreements among board members. “There have been some simplistic attempts to frame this as a north-south division or a union issue. I think all of that is really unfortunate as well as inaccurate. I believe people across the county share a desire for greater decency,” he said. “I think this is an opportune time to raise expectations about how we conduct dialogue.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ethical Code of conduct important

An ethical code of conduct is important for all people in any part of a society...respect for gender, respect for economic status, respect for cultural differences, respect for age differences, respect for intellectual differences. Intimidation and harassment cause ugly situations. We need a positive environment to work and play in, to gain the respect of other Minnesotans. Have we not learned from the lessons of the movie "North Country"?? CW

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

We're Watching St. Louis County: September 4th County Board Meeting in Duluth

We're Watching St. Louis County: September 4th County Board Meeting in Duluth

September 4th County Board Meeting in Duluth

Today we had many people attend the County Board Meeting in Duluth and speak to the Board regarding our concerns with respect to the sexual harassment investigations and their lack of respect for each other, as well as their constituents in recent months. The Duluth News Tribune had an excellent article this morning that folks should take a look at

It is especially important that folks continue to monitor these meetings, as well as contact their county commissioners to let them know that "We Are Watching"!