Not over yet; Former Greenfield City officials fight State Appellate Ruling

BY LINDA HERKENHOFF

Linda.herkenhoff@ecm-inc.com

Two years ago, in June 2010, Jill Krout, Mark Lee and Howard Veldhuizen filed suit against the City of Greenfield claiming that direction by the city’s attorney at the time, Scott Riggs, was incorrect and damaging to them.

At the time, Krout was the former mayor, Lee and Veldhuizen held council seats.

In 2009, after a tumultuous two and a half years of public service, then Mayor Jill Krout stepped down from her position as Greenfield Mayor. Leading up to this event were months of packed room observers who protested the perceived stranglehold Krout and two councilors, Lee and Veldhuizen, seemed to have on decisions that financially impacted the city.

Controversy swirled around the little western berg as employees fled and residents grew concerned. Increasing so. Meetings grew in attendance from the half dozen regulars attendees to 300 concerned property owners in a matter of weeks. One meeting was conducted at midnight in 2009 and a sewer plant management company was hired to replace the city employee many felt Krout weeded out in order to outsource.

In a separate, but highly charged incident, Krout called a special meeting to fire the interim city administrative that the League of Minnesota Cities recommended to help get the city back on course.

In fall 2009, Krout resigned to an audience suspected to be close to 500.

Days prior to her resignation, a Data Practices request had been filed with the city by a resident requesting the phone records between Krout, Lee and Veldhuizen during the time they served together on the Greenfield City Council.

Veldhuizen immediately assumed the mayor’s role, and remained on council when the suit was filed.

The data practices request was intended to reveal if there were any open meeting violations – a situation that occurs when three of the five council members discuss city business, or make decisions, before an official meeting.

Data from the request shows Krout logged in 7,491 minutes, Veldhuizen 5,260 minutes and Lee 2,865 minutes in phone calls between each other over a portion of the time the request laid claim to.

Also noted in this information were 10 calls, at more than two hours combined, between Krout and former councilor Roger Mattila between May 5 and the June 2 meeting at which the three, acting as the majority council, voted to hire him as the city’s administrator. The council spent approximately 5,037 minutes in official city meetings during the same period.

The district and state rulings, including appeals, dismiss the litigant’s insistence that they were employees of the city and immune to the scrutiny of their calling records, or making them available at all.

The three former officials are now appealing their case the Minnesota Supreme Court using that argument. It unknown at this time if the court will hear the case.

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