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GUEST COMMENTARY: Recent city actions raise a lot of questions in Cloquet

Jim Langenbrunner

I was hired as a pipe-man for the Cloquet Fire Department in 1975. At that time a 36-hour advanced first aid card was needed to be a qualified ambulance attendant. In 1976, the city transitioned to a Public Safety Department-Police/Fire, which continued until 1997. During those years, pipe-man became firefighter and ambulance attendant became an EMT and later EMT-paramedic. The 36 hours of training became more than 2,000 hours, a change for all. This change was not without conflict.

In 1975, the city governmental structure operated with a mayor, council, clerk-treasurer, and various department heads. The city transitioned to a city administrator in 1999. Another change and some conflict.

Over the years, the city of Cloquet (city administrator, mayor, council and department heads) has conducted various studies in an effort to improve services to its citizens. These studies, when implemented, have led to change. With any change comes adaptation and, at times, conflict.

One of the studies resulted in the Cloquet Fire Department dissolving and becoming part of the Cloquet Area Fire District in 2008-2009. This change was difficult, required legislative action at the state, and created internal and external conflict. For the record, I also did not agree with some of the changes, but it was necessary to improve service to the citizens ... not for my personal gain, I adapted.

The complexity of providing service to the citizens of Cloquet continues in 2017 and even more so since recently the long-time city administrator left for another position. This is a difficult position in the best of times, a huge change and much more conflict.

In regard to the March 16 "emergency city council meeting," after reading the City Council Handbook (which can be accessed through the city website adopted in November 2016), the handbook says an emergency meeting should be held "to protect the public health, safety, and welfare from harm that would be caused by a delay." Emergency meetings are also referenced in the State Statute.

The following questions come to mind:

1. Does the declared emergency meeting meet the city or state definition?

2. Why was the chain of command bypassed in the appointment of the acting police chief?

3. Did the appointment discussion take place in a closed meeting? If so, under what statute is this allowed?

4. Has the Minnesota Police Officer Bill of Rights been followed?

5. Has a thorough, timely, professional, impartial investigation been initiated?

The entire elected body must work together during this change, not create additional conflict. They serve the citizens.

We should have zero concerns on open meetings, adherence to any rules, regulations, ordinances, resolutions, labor relation laws, state statute, or federal laws by our elected officials. We, the citizens, should set high standards and expect no less than zero concerns from our mayor and council.

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