NISSWA — Three members of the Nisswa City Council on Monday accepted the resignation of the city attorney and appointed a new legal firm until 2014.
The move comes in the wake of the council meeting in closed session Aug. 14 at the Ahlquist Law Office in Pequot Lakes, suspending its police chief a day later and offering him a resignation settlement, and then reinstating the chief Aug. 21 after learning the council couldn’t make any staffing changes until a petition for unionization was settled.
The Bureau of Mediation Services received the petition for unionization among supervisory and confidential employees, which could include department heads or a police chief.
Council member and mayor pro tem Gary Johnson along with council members Jan Pierce and Tina Foster met Monday afternoon to accept city attorney Clyde Ahlquist’s resignation and to appoint the Gammello, Qualley, Pearson and Mallak firm as city attorney.
Mayor Brian Lehman was absent because he was out of town. The council currently has four members after Lenny Hodgson resigned last month. Ahlquist’s resignation letter reads: “Pursuant to your request, I herby resign as the City Attorney for the City of Nisswa effective as of the date of this letter (Aug. 22). Thank you.”
When asked why the council asked Ahlquist to resign, Johnson said the council didn’t feel comfortable with the direction Ahlquist gave regarding Police Chief Craig Taylor.
Ahlquist drafted an offer from the council that offered Taylor a year’s pay and benefits in exchange for his resignation. The offer also stipulated that Taylor not disclose the details of the agreement or disparage the council or the mayor.
Taylor rejected the offer, maintaining that he has no sustained complaints against him and has never had any disciplinary action taken against him.
Regarding the reason the council suspended Taylor, sought his resignation and then reinstated him, Johnson said Monday it was best to refrain from commenting until council members can confer with their new attorney.
Johnson and Foster said the Aug. 14 closed meeting, which lasted about 2 1/2 hours, was held at the Ahlquist Law Office in Pequot Lakes because it was a closed meeting that needed to be held off-site (not at city hall).
The council on Monday appointed Pierce and Foster to meet with city attorney Jim Gammello regarding a notice of mediation services the city received with a Sept. 3 deadline to respond. Lehman and Gary Johnson were unable to meet with the attorney in the next week.
“Some damage has been done here, but our goal is to work with staff as best we can to repair the damage,” Johnson said when asked how the council planned to restore trust at city hall.