St. Cloud Mayor Nathan Blackwell adjourned the June 9th St. Cloud City Council meeting stating it was both an interesting and historic meeting.
That certainly was an understatement as the discussion included the possible replacement of long time City of St. Cloud Attorney, Daniel F. Mantzaris and his firm DSK Law, followed later the meeting by a motion to dismiss City Manager Joe Helfenberger. Both unexpected motions were made by Councilman Donny Shoyer and seconded by Councilman Chuck Cooper. Both men were very open in explaining why they were willing to move in new directions for both city positions. Mr. Shoyer went as far in his motion as to suggest that Deputy City Manager and St. Cloud Fire Chief Bill Sturgeon should serve as the interim City Manager and Jason Miller should then move to fill the role as Fire Chief.
Councilwoman Linette Matheny and Councilman Dave Askew, along with Mayor Nathan Blackwell, took a more restrained approach in both the City Attorney discussion and the City Manager discussion. Mr Askew said, “If we’re ready for a full-time attorney, let’s make sure we go about it in the right way.” He went on to say, “I don’t want to get into this and then next year coming back say we actually need two city attorneys. Now we’re going to need another $200,000.00, and by the way they’re going to need an assistant and that’s going to be another $100,000.00. I just want to make sure we’re doing this the right way, that’s all.
St. Cloud Attorney, Daniel F. Mantzaris responded to Mr. Shoyer’s discussion by saying, “respectfully, I’ve been City Attorney, and my firm has been City Attorney for a long time, and we’ve enjoyed our relationship with the city. We think we’ve done an excellent job and we think the city has been very fair to us. That being said, if this is an issue regarding ethics; performance, then let’s talk about this, but if this is an issue regarding whether the city wants to move in a different direction, that’s your discussion. But to insinuate that there is some sort of ethical problem that are firm is doing because we are representing the city’s interest entirely, exclusively on all of our ventures – is frankly a professional problem for me, and if you want to have that discussion then let’s have that discussion.”
After David Askew, Linette Matheny and Mayor Blackwell shared their input, this portion of the meeting ended with Councilman Shoyer withdrawing his motion, Chuck Cooper rescinding his second and the council requesting that the City Manager explore the costs of hiring a full-time attorney, or attorneys via comparables.
From there the discussion moved back to Donny Shoyer who stated, “Joe is failing to navigate our city to the next level,” then made a motion for the termination of City Manager Joe Helfenberger, with another second by Chuck Cooper. Once again Councilman Dave Askew brought a number of positive suggestions to the council in order to prevent the removal of Mr. Helfenberger, and to constructively assist the City Manager in successfully moving forward.
Mr. Helfenberger offered to bring a weekly written report that would serve as a better method of communication to the staff and council… it was a suggestion that seemed to change the direction of the meeting to some degree. Mr. Shoyer was still not satisfied and held strong in his motion, but Mayor Blackwell offered a calming suggestion of having quarterly job performance reviews in order to better guide Mr. Helfenberger and to provide better counsel. He noted that Mr. Helfenberger has always been very receptive to him, and encouraged the City Manager to send out a brief Monday morning report as discussed to aid in overall communication.
Both discussions took place during the latter portion of the council meeting, thus few people were in attendance at the time. The role was still taken on Mr. Shoyer’s motion to dismiss the City Manager, but the motion failed to pass 1 to 4, and Mayor Blackwell adjourned the meeting.