Half way through City of St. Cloud’s regular meeting City Manager Joe Helfenberger announced that he had very much enjoyed working and serving the great people of St. Cloud, and then requested that the City Council accept his “mutual separation agreement” effective immediately. His resignation request was honored with a unanimous vote by the council. The resignation came as a surprise although there had been some strife over the last month in St. Cloud, including a motion being made by Councilman Donny Shoyer to terminate Mr. Helfenberger.
Councilwoman Linette Matheny then made a motion to name St. Cloud Fire Chief Bill Sturgeon as interim city manager and also St. Cloud Police Chief Pete Gauntlett as acting director of public services.
Fire Chief Sturgeon spoke to the council I’m saying, “I am humbled and honored that you would entrust this position with me, I promise you I will work hard to work with our staff and our council to move this city into a positive and highly effective position.”
During the meeting councilman David Askew asked Mr. Helfenberger directly if he had been asked by a council member to hire Chris Robertson for the economic development director position. Askew then described his understanding of the situation by asking Helfenberger whether the council member in question threatened to fire him if he did not hire Robertson. Helfenberger replied “yes.” Askew also asked Mr. Helfenberger whether anyone else was in the room at the time, and Mr. Helfenberger replied, “no.”
Two citizens in the audience spoke at the podium supporting Mr. Askew’s reporting of the incident, which led council member Cooper to comment and deny that the incident took place as stated by Mr. Askew and the audience members who spoke. Cooper said, “I did not threaten anybody.”
Mr. Askew made a motion for there to be an investigation into the incident. Askew made a motion to investigate that issue, and that council members cannot hireor or fire city employees. The motion passed 4-1 with Council Member Cooper being the only no vote.
Council member Lynette Matheny and Mayor Nathan Blackwell both thanked Helfenberger for his service to the city and Mayor Blackwell went on to say “I appreciate the sacrifices that he made. My prayers will be with him as he seeks a new direction.”