Last night the Mayor claimed that because the Chairman of the Princeton Public Utilities responded directly to the Mayor’s 8/17 email, that he violated Minnesota’s Open Meeting Laws. The claim is completely unfounded. Were it to be true, it would imply that the officers and staff of Princeton Public Utilities are not allowed to respond publicly to the Mayor’s accusations. The Mayor is seemingly trying to keep people silent by not allowing them to share information with others.
The Chairman’s email (which is below) was addressed to Mayor Schumacher while the rest of the Commission is cc’d.
From: Greg Hanson <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2020 7:33 PM
To: Brad Schumacher <Mayor@princetonmn.org>
Cc: Shawna Jenkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Robert Barbian <email@example.com>; Dan Erickson <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Rick Schwartz <RSchwartz@princetonutilities.com>; Tim Hennagir <email@example.com>; Keith Butcher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Thanks to Chairman Hanson for attend the City Council Meeting – from the Mayor.
Always happy to attend a council meeting when important issues are to be discussed. I’m glad that you feel it went well and unfortunately it certainly was taken to a personal level.
As you mentioned in your personal email to me, rather than from your official city email account, should the voters choose to remove the commission all the employees of the Utility would remain in place. Upon passage only the commissioners would be without a position, including Mr. Schwartz. My livelihood does not depend on this position and I only accepted to serve in an area I felt I would be helpful. Since Mr. Schwartz would no longer have standing with the Utility he would then need to be engaged by the city to be eligible to serve as Princeton’s representative. Currently Princeton is not a voting member of the SMMPA board.
With regard to our meeting this Wednesday, this meeting was requested by Mr. Schwartz to discuss the water side of the utility, rates and reserve funds so he will certainly have a place on the agenda. As for “dirty Washington politics” Mr. Mayor, it is you that have placed this in the forefront in the midst of a political campaign in a self serving attempt to call attention to yourself now that there are others that have filed for the position. I hereby call on you sir, to do the right thing and remove this issue until after the election and allow the new council to deal with it as they see fit.
As I have already mentioned the meeting this Wednesday is a PUC work group meeting, which Mr. Zimmer is welcome to attend, but the subject has to do with the water side of the utility, rates and reserve funds. He may find it interesting. This Friday’s meeting is the combined Council/PUC workgroup on the PILOT where we are expecting to hear from Mr. Barbian, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Zimmer on the specific needs and plans for the PILOT payments. This is part of an ongoing discussion to work together with the council on the PILOT.
I am aware that you have already filmed a video in front of the Princeton Public Utilities offices which I assume you plan to use as part of your campaign. It is only fair then to offer our office front to any other candidates should they choose to respond.
What you failed to mention as you waved Mr. Hennagir’s letter before the council was the note made by Mr. Downer, Director of Communications and Member Relations for the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association; As noted in the Chisholm v. Bergeron (1923) decision “having a commission govern the operations of the utility insulates both the utility and the council from politicizing the operations of the utility.” You, with a single agenda entry, have thrown the careful and thoughtful maintenance and management of the city’s utility in to the political circus that you have created. Fortunately, the good folks of Princeton will see through this charade and political posturing and see it for what it is.
7201 Aspen Road
Princeton MN 55371
The Mayor often employs this same strategy by sending an email to the City Clerk ordering her to send copies to the entire City Council. Does the Mayor honestly believe that there is a significant difference between his standard practice of using City staff to send out emails to the full Council and what he is now accusing the Chairman of doing?
The Open Meeting Law was established to promote government transparency and ensure that there are no “backroom” deals or behind the scenes voting manipulation. The public has a right to know how their government is operating. The Open Meeting Law is not a mechanism for the Mayor to silence those that disagree with him. The Mayor’s claims are incorrect because:
- The email is to the Mayor and not to the PUC. The PUC was merely copied so that they were given background information on an email that the Mayor had sent to the full Commission.
- The email did not include any discussion about upcoming PUC votes. It was a direct response by the Chairman towards specific statements made by the Mayor.
- No other PUC Commissioner responded to the Chairman’s email.
- The Chairman copied the local newspaper showing that the process is indeed public and transparent. Nothing is being hidden.
Should the Mayor wish to find an Open Meeting Law violation perhaps he should look no further than his own email from May 1st of this year (see below, this is a public document since it went to the full Council). In this email, the Mayor is working to create a new ordinance and is actually instructing the Council on next actions where he states, “I would encourage the city council to ask questions prior to the study session…”
In addition, the Mayor is providing the entire City Council political advice where he states,
“If we attract a crowd of angry business and property owners I’ll do what I do every time someone is mad and ask them this question, “sir you seem upset, did you just get your water bill in the mail too”? It works every time to settle the problem down. “
The email is very insightful on the Mayor’s political strategy. Whenever there is a contentious issue, he likes to deflect by attacking Princeton Public Utilities even if the issue does not involve this utility.
From: Brad Schumacher <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, May 1, 2020 11:03:00 PM
To: Robert Barbian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Shawna Jenkins <email@example.com>; Damien Toven <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Todd Frederick <email@example.com>; Steve Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: New Princeton City Ordinance, “Stand Alone” Commercial Vacant Building Registration”
Clerk CC Council
As I told you over the phone today, this is the solution to issue we’re having in town. I want you to draft a 1st reading of the this new ordinance for the May study session. It’s very import that it read just the way I wrote it here, “stand alone commercial vacant building registration”. You need to keep the scope focused or this will fail. I would encourage the city council to ask questions prior to the study session of the attorney or yourself. This will work if we cut copy and paste from the City of Crystal MN Section 435. Please GET THIS DONE!
Please also reference the City of Champlin Section 106
Please also reference the City of Anoka Section 48-7
We can call this “The Mayor’s Plan” for the new ordinance if it fails. If we attract a crowd of angry business and property owners I’ll do what I do every time someone is mad and ask them this question, “sir you seem upset, did you just get your water bill in the mail too”? It works every time to settle the problem down.
City of Princeton Mayor