Sargent responds she wants to finish term
Maple Grove City Councilor Leann Sargent made a statement during the Monday, April 21, council meeting regarding her recent legal issues and her position on the council.
Sargent was sentenced to a gross misdemeanor in Hennepin County Court the morning of Monday, April 7. She previously pleaded guilty to financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, her father that lived with her for almost two years. According to reports, at the court hearing, District Court Judge Luis Bartolomei said he strongly considered sentencing her for a felony. He decided on a gross misdemeanor because that allows her to stay on the City Council and maintain her purse sales job. Her sentence was to serve 60 actual days of a 120 day sentence at the Hennepin County Workhouse. Most of her 60 days will be spent in home monitoring. She was also ordered to pay $107,348 in restitution to her father’s estate and $12,918 to her half brother Robert Bobleter Jr. She has two years to pay the restitution.
She said the last two years since her father died, there have been many stories that show one side. “I am not, in way, shape or form negating what I ended up having to do,” she said. “I would like to take this time to apologize to the Mayor, council members, staff and residents… I apologize for the embarrassment of the city.”
Sargent added she unfortunately made mistakes that she is now living with.
“It would be easy to run away and I know I have an uphill climb to receive your renewed confidence in me, but my heart is with the city of Maple Grove,” she said. “I will do my best to continue represent the city. This is my decision to make. If in the future I decide I cannot be effective, I will retire.”
She added she was reelected during the early stages of the investigation and wants to finish her term to the end, which is at the end of December 2016.
There were two people from the audience that spoke about Sargent during the open forum portion of the meeting.
First to speak was Robert Joiner. He stated a crime was committed. “As the leaders of the city of Maple Grove, there is a responsibility that transcends just the legal and ethic code of conduct,” he said. “When you are elected as leaders, you are elected basically on your personal profiles on what you do and how you conduct yourself, not only here but as you conduct yourselves as anyone in leadership positions does for the community. That creates a higher standard in my opinion. We’ve held that higher standard.”
Joiner said he felt Sargent’s legal issue was a dilemma. He added he thought if the council did nothing, it was wrong. He asked the council to censor Sargent.
Second to speak was Dawn Slimmer. She agreed with what Joiner said. “You were all elected based on trust and that trust has been breached horribly and it needs to be addressed,” she said.
The members of the council also made statements.
Mayor Mark Steffenson said, “As you know, your actions have embarrassed the city. They have brought bad publicity to the city. It is important for employees and for the city to have a good reputation and to be held in high esteem by the community.”
He added there was a concern if Sargent could adequately perform her job as a council member successfully.
“If you are going to continue in this role, you must rededicate yourself to this job,” Mayor Steffenson said. “You must commit yourself to work on behalf of the city. You must demonstrate to its employees, to the council, and most importantly, to our residents that you can successfully, efficiently and effectively do your job.”
Councilor Erik Johnson spoke, adding his agreement to Mayor Steffenson. Johnson said, “I am far from neutral on this. I will renew my request to you tonight, immediately resign your position on the Maple Grove City Council.”
Also agreeing was Councilor Phil Leith. He said he also asked her to resign. “I think as elected, public officials we are held to a higher standard,” he said.
Councilor Karen Jaeger said Sargent has been an effective council member for 20-some years. “Ethically, if it was me, I would have stepped down,” she said.
City Attorney George Hoff said that since Sargent was convicted of a gross misdemeanor and not a felony, it means her seat won’t be vacated.
“The city does not have the power under Minnesota law to force a removal,” Hoff said.
He added the council could censor Sargent with a statement expressing the council’s thoughts on Sargent’s actions, but this would not carry any sort of penalty.
The council approved censoring Councilor Sargent for various behaviors set forth in the criminal actions that was before the county and added that the council requested for her resignation. The censorship is noted that the council feels the behavior is inappropriate.
Hoff said what the council is doing is making its position known as a matter of public interest, but the council has no authority to go beyond this.