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Mayor, Majority Unhappy with Albertville Administrator "for Months"

Mayor Mark Meehan said in Monday's meeting the issue with Albertville City Administrator Larry Kruse had been "festering" for months, and he took action when confronted by another council member.

It didn't take long to delve into the issues at Monday's Albertville City Council meeting, as the public comment period became the only segment of the night where the dozens in attendance could weigh in on the city's latest controversy.

Mayor Mark Meehan opened up the floor for public comment minutes after 7 p.m., and the first speaker-former mayor Ron Klecker-asked that Meehan wait.

"I'd like to speak on Item 10A [City Administrator Performance Review], but I would like to save my comments until then," Klecker requested.

However, Meehan didn't allow residents to wait, and referred to the rules of order for the meeting. He said all public comment would be taken at the outset.

Council member Larry Sorenson asked for a motion to allow public comment on an item on the agenda but by a 3 to 2 vote, the motion did not carry. The vote-with the mayor, Jillian Hendrickson and John Vetsch voting no, turned out to be a preview of the decisive vote that would send the city administrator packing.

Klecker, former councilmember Tom Fay, and local business owner Dan Dixon all spoke favorably of city administrator Larry Kruse and the job he's done since he was hired in 2003. Klecker and Fay noted especially on the accomplishment of collecting $950,000 of unbilled bills early on in his contract.

Kruse not only collected upon that money, but also brought various other money to the city including the money for the Interstate 94 ramp. Construction on that project begins construction this summer.

"If there's any reason to dismiss Larry, I hope they are $9 million worth," Fay ended his statement by saying.

Dixon, who serves as president and CEO of Guardian Angels, a senior living organization that has already purchased 15 acres of land, noted a positive relationship with Kruse throughout the process and asked the council to "consider your actions tonight."

James Gilach, a MNDOT employee addressed, the mayor at the end of the open forum with concerns about the "appearance of impropriety on not taking public comment on an item on the agenda."

His comments and concerns were not addressed.

At around 8:30 p.m. Meehan started the discussion about last week's "closed door" meeting between him and Kruse with the council and expressed his feelings on being "misguided" by Kruse throughout his 16-month term.

"It's been festering on and off for me since I started," Meehan said.

His list of grievances dated back to the franchise fee that was voted on and approved his first meeting as mayor and several grievances that council member Jillian Hendrickson had shared with him.

Clearly emotionally charged, Meehan addressed both the council and the audience as he discussed his issues with Kruse, and was stopped when member Hendrickson said she had something to read to the audience.

Hendrickson read a statement that was pages long citing that she did a "careful and deliberate review of Kruse" and had heard from multiple sources claiming issues with Kruse.

Among her complaints was a theme of unreturned phone calls, inconsistency and lack of professionalism. All of the cases she shared were nonspecific and anonymous, but were filed with her by both residents and business owners, including potential entrepreneur opportunities she said Kruse never followed up on.

She turned the floor over to council member Dan Wagner, who said he felt blindsided.

"If this has been going on, I've been oblivious. Why didn't you bring it up sooner?" he asked.

Hendrickson explained the plan had been to discuss all of this at the meeting.  However it went public prior to Monday's meeting due to a "council member going public," spoken while glaring at fellow council member Larry Sorenson.

"We work for the public and they need to know what's going on. I want to hear from the public," Sorenson said.

"Speaking to the public was counterproductive," Hendrickson aruged. She said she didn't plan on discussing Kruse's performance who "would not have been at the meeting" had it not been for Sorenson going public.

Member John Vetsch said he was not impressed with Kruse's ability to bring new business to Albertville. He said growth had simply stopped, and that he didn't see activity from the city to keep things moving.

"At the end of the day, business has to get done," Vetsch said. The council's senior member also added that he expressed concerns about economic development during Kruse's annual review back in December.

Sorensen jumped on that, wondering why Kruse was given a "3.8 out of 5" rating just four months ago.

"I'm still lost as to how we got here, where we're talking dismissal, when we gave him a very good review in December," he said.

Hendrickson said most of the concerns from residents and business owners she pointed to in her report had contacted her in the last six months.

Finally, Kruse himself was given the floor and a chance to explain things from his perspective. Meehan had come to see him with "disappointing news that...the city wants me to resign."

Kruse was prepared with notes from the meeting and Meehan's long list of grievances including: overcompensation, an out-of-date contract that had Kruse previously using an outdated mileage reimbursement, disagreements between the two on the 2nd sheet of ice and possible wireless internet/fibernet, bad relations with Otsego, concerns about giving Finance Director Tina Lannes 2 Steps and finally, that Kruse "should be a city admin in a big city."

Kruse encouraged council members to talk with him and take things issue by issue and also reminded them that "there's only so much Larry to go around." He also shared the results of his review dated December 19, 2011 in which he scored a 3.89 score out of 5 after sending out 360degree surveys to various city employees, council members and business members.

Meehan moved the meeting forward by making a motion for termination effective May 1 on the grounds of fear of retribution towards some of the staff, citizens and businesses, dishonesty to some of the council, lack of response in an adequate time and future trust issues.

As the motions were being made and a vote about to take place, Wagner interrupted and said, "call me a small town guy, but this is unfair." Those in the audience applauded him.

Kruse used this time to ask city attorney Mike Couri about the wording used in the motion. "Calling me dishonest is an allegation," Kruse said. Kruse suggested to the council that wording such as "the council wanting to go in another direction" should be utilized.

Meehan changed the motion to termination due to a change of direction effective May 1. Vetsch made the motion, Hendrickson seconded and Meehan also voted in support of termination.

Sorenson and Wagner voted against.

Nat April 17, 2012 at 03:40 PM
If this means filling empty buildings in albertville, that is great news! 9 years of not having good enough relationships with new businesses to come or stay here seems a little too long! Time for new faces and ideas!
Dieter April 17, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Let's start with the council, the Administrator can only enforce the rules and policies the Council sets.
Nat April 17, 2012 at 04:39 PM
The council advises him not to return phone calls? And to be unprofessional?
cc April 17, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Based on last nights meeting I have 3 words to describe the fall guy; effort, integrity & class. I have one word to describe 3 council members; JOKE. Best of luck to you Mr Kruse sorry for what they put you through. Great pictures by the Patch, it tells you a LOT about the people in the photos from what I saw at the meeting!
Katie April 18, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Four months ago his performance review was 3.8/5 which is 76% or a C grade (considered average.) If he truly wasn't returning phone calls and was unprofessional, I feel it should have been brought up in his review or discussed at another time since his review - it is not terms for immediate dismissal. I agree that the Administrator can only enforce the rules and policies the Council sets. The Council has shown me (through the handling of this issue) just how unprofessional they are. For a fellow Council member (Dan Wagner) to be "blindsided" proves to me there were problems in how this issue was handled. It sets a terrible example for our children to follow and it opens up a whole new precedent in ways to act moving forward. There are better ways to handle issues. On another note, I despise the fact that Council woman Hendrickson is quoted as saying "Speaking to the public was counterproductive." We elect them to be our "voices" in situations where 5,000 residents cannot be squished into a room and have productive results. The public needs to know what is going on so we can make informed decisions moving forward regarding her seat on the Council (among other things of course.) But I suppose that would be counterproductive to her AGENDA.
Colleen Larson April 18, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Wow! I'd love to know the real truth. And Council woman Hendrickson unhappy with " a room full of people" there to witness this debacle speaks volumes. The Mayor's and her behavior is shocking.
Katie April 18, 2012 at 02:06 PM
I would "like" your comment if I were able to... it certainly is shocking. :)
Johnson April 18, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I agree, I would "like" Colleen Larson's and Katie's comments also if I could. If Ms. Hendrickson claims she had so many resident's and businesses complaining, why didn't she bring them forward to the whole council in a timely manner to be dealt with? Seems the only one's speaking up are those unhappy with HER performance. Also, Why didn't she need to validate her list of complainers - anyone could have made up a list. At least share with your fellow council members your list of unhappy residents and businesses. Her intentions were to keep this private - between Ms. Hendrickson and the Mayor - not even share it with the rest of the council, let alone the public she works for!?
Linda April 18, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Ms Henderickson made it clear that those providing her with information were scared of retaliation and that is why names were not shared in her report.
Jessica April 18, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Let's just say none of this looks good. There is without a doubt a lack of leadership and certainly a lot of embarrassing behavior. Anyone can point out flaws and place blame. So often we only see what we go looking for. I hope for the City of Albertville that a leader will emerge that unites the town and everyone can move on.
Embarrassed Albertville Resident April 18, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I am very uncomfortable with the actions of the 3 members of our council that turned Monday's council meeting into a circus event. Is there a process that (if supported by the majority of Albertville residents) that would possibly reevaluate these members of our council before their respective terms are up? My unhappiness is not with the fact that Mr. Kruse was terminated, it is with the way these 3 members made it happen along with their lack of respect and dignity while doing so. Hats off to Sorenson and Wagner for the display of class and respect for humanity.
Anonymous April 18, 2012 at 09:47 PM
You people are crazy. The rules state that a council nember is only allowed to speak with one other council person about an issue outside of a meeting. She went to the mayor with her concerns and therfore was not able to contacts any others. The fact that this came to a public hearing and was not kept part of a private performance review was entirely the fault of larry sorenson and his press release. Her presentation of her findings was much more professional than anyone else in the meeting. She kept those involved confidential and included statements from both sides of the arguement. If it wasnt for disrespectfull members of the audience blurting out smug remarks under their breath like a bunch of five year olds it could have been debated civily amongs adults representing the city.
JM April 18, 2012 at 11:47 PM
From the Patch, January 2011: Jillian: "I’d also like to open up the lines of communication between residents and the city" Monday night: "Speaking to the public was counterproductive," Hendrickson aruged. She said she didn't plan on discussing Kruse's performance with a room full of people who "would not have been at the meeting" had it not been for Sorenson going public.
Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 02:29 AM
A moment of clarity hear, if you were at the meeting you would know that her statement wasn't regarding not having public informed on what was going on, it was in regards to Larry Sorensen going to the Patch and putting staff in turmoil and council at risk of violating laws. If there wouldn't have been so much momentum monday night, there probably would have more discussion involved and perhaps another meeting. Plus If you people had any idea as to how city government works you'd know that her going to the Mayor was to put her concerns on the agenda for the PUBLIC meeting. All meetings are public so she obviously isntyour trying to hide anything and keeping the complaints private is business smart. Would you want to risk retaliation like we have seen on this news page? Not me! The Mayor was the one who initiated the resignation remember. Really it was Sorensen who got the ball rolling downhill by fast forwarding a discussion before he even knew what it was about.
Business for Albertville April 19, 2012 at 06:41 AM
As it seems, open meeting law prevents more than 2 council members discussing a single issue without a formal meeting for very good reason. That would probably be why some of the members were taken off guard by this. City Councils have closed meetings all the time for a multitude of good reasons. This public spectacle did not help Larry Kruse. It is too bad this went to the press and there was a public meeting before the council was able to share thoughts and issues with one another. This would have gone much differently had they been able to. Hendrickson has been taking a beating in these blogs and she could easily reveal names of the business's/residents that justify her decision. I doubt she will and that is brave and respectable. Many types of retribution are a real threat to those who would speak out against Larry Kruse which is very evident here. Albertville needs an administrator who can build good relationships with the contiguous cities and has an ability to promote and work with businesses. Whats done is done now, it is time for Albertville to come together as a whole and support the existing council and staff to find our new administrator to keep us moving forward.
Anonymous April 19, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I agree and I was at the meeting. The discussion of Larry Cruse's performance should never have been in a public forum initially.It was very inappropriate for councilmember Larry Sorenson to take it to the local news as it was inappropriate for Mr. Kruse to take it to the staff of the city. The council did not even have a chance to call a meeting for discussion.And the Mayor did ask Councilmember Sorenson why he did not call him directly? Why is a good question. Councilmember Hendrickson was extremely well prepared and had obviously done her due diligence. And Mr. Kruse had been fired from 2 other communities for similar reasons prior to being hired in Albertville. The knee-jerk reaction of Councilmember Sorenson and Mr. Kruse hurt more than helped.
cc April 19, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I guess it's ok to look at your phone constantly and mess with candy wrappers like the Mayor? The guy has zero respect and cares for only himself. Anybody can have so called "confidential" info, just make it up. They knew before the meeting started they were going to fire him so that stuff about reprocussion against the so called complainers was irrelevant. He wasnt going to be Administrator anyways. If you were really a good listener you would've known it was public info after Mr Kruse informed his staff and Mr Sorenson did nothing wrong. YOU'RE the one who's crazy if you support people like that. Mr Vetsch had a legit reason; a dog got hurt and the city couldve been sued. Give me a break! You dont think the 3 of them got together for this really??
cc April 19, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Mr Wagner has been with the council for years and had no compaints. The best thing to do is replace 3 of them. Hendrickson deserves the beating shes getting along with Meehan. You're another one of those who really believe only 2 of them talked at a time apparently cause nothing dishonest ever happens in politics. Were you at the meeting? You could tell before it even started they were sharpening the knife to slit the administrators throat.
Larry Sorensen April 19, 2012 at 06:11 PM
After the Mayor’s meeting with Mr. Kruse last Monday where Kruse stated he wouldn’t resign, Mr. Kruse then had the choice of handling this is an open or closed meeting. He chose an open meeting. Basically, at that point it became public, as it was to be added to the agenda for the City Council meeting. From the time I was told by Mr. Kruse of what had taken place, and until the City Council meeting took place, I had the right to speak with one other council member, as well as the public, regarding this. The fact that I did talk with the public (yes, including Patch) had nothing to do with whether or not this would be a closed or open meeting -- again, that was Mr. Kruse’s choice, and that was already determined. City staff and others were notified of this situation by Mr. Kruse before the press reported the story. Keep in mind, there was always the opportunity to call a closed meeting or workshop prior to the Mayor’s meeting with Mr. Kruse, but that didn’t happen. As I said Monday, as a City Council member I work for the public and I stand by my decision to inform residents on a matter like this. Even if I had kept this to myself, given the fact that this item was on the agenda, it would have most certainly raised questions from the press, and residents would have found out about it. In closing, I agree with “Business for Albertville”…. what’s done is done, we will need to find a way to put feelings aside, pick up the pieces, and move forward.
Katie April 19, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Thanks for weighing in Mr. Sorensen, it speaks volumes for a person when they are willing to stand behind their decisions in such an open forum.
cc April 19, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I think you need to run against Mr Meehan and knock him off his high horse... Well stated Mr Sorensen! It was good see at least 2 council members and an Administrator could stay composed and calm without constantly interrupting the people whos time it was to talk.
Citizen of Albertville April 20, 2012 at 12:37 AM
I fully support the coulcil on the decision. I commend the effort to make the right decision within the letter of the law. I was on the other side receiving the vindictive ways of the administrator. I went In front of the council and expressed my documented events to the council. For those out there who was on the other end of this mans ways please remember this, what goes around comes around in time. And our time was Monday night. I commend the Mayor and council!
Anonymous April 20, 2012 at 05:11 AM
To Mr. Sorenson- The item was on the agenda because of your public contact with the press. You had a knee-jerk reaction and instead of taking a step back and contacting the Mayor-You decided to take this to the press. That to me indicates that you make decisions more by emotions than fact. You should have taken a little more time to think about your actions and the ramification of those actions.And now you are blaming Mr. Kruse for having an open meeting. You brought that on by putting Mr. Kruse in a position of having to choose. As a councilmember you should have investigated the accusations before you went public with anything.
Larry Sorensen April 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Anonymous: Mr. Kruse had chosen the open meeting option two days before I spoke with Patch about this, so no matter what anybody said to anyone else it was going to be in the agenda in a public open meeting. As far as me contacting the Mayor, if the two of us had spoken about this topic at that time, we both would have violated the Open Meeting Law. Rather than the two of us filling this blog with back-and-forths, you can always contact me directly (sorensen_albertville@yahoo.com) with any other questions or clarifications.
MNParent78 April 20, 2012 at 03:05 PM
While it is true that a council member is only allowed to speak with one other council person about an issue outside of a meeting. That is not the real issue. The real issue is the Mayor asking for his resignation without public council consensus at a concil meeting to discuss findings, concerns, and facts. This should have been done BEFORE asking for his resignation to give the council a fair chance to respond and make a reasonable decision. Instead it prompted hostility, chaos, and a lot of bitterness, and a lot of public attention. Bad decision on the Mayor's part.
M. Zachman April 20, 2012 at 04:59 PM
After reading the summary of the council meeting, it appears that the Mayor should be looked at.....the charges appear to be put together to get someone out of their job because the mayor doesn't like them. That is not a professional way of handling this situation. And for the two council members (cohorts) - they seem to have their own agenda - which is under the table - not forthright or professional. What have we elected?
JM April 20, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Ms. Hendrickson was professional? Talking with Meehan and smiling while others were speaking. Rolling of the eyes. Snapping at Sorenson, Kruse and a member of the audience. Interrupting other council members while they were trying to talk. Yeah, real professional.
JM April 21, 2012 at 01:01 PM
There should have been a meeting of the entire council BEFORE Meehan asked for the resignation. And as Wagner said Hendrickson should have been informing the council of these complaints as they were coming in.

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