Accusing the city of a lack of vision and Mary Koep of micromanaging his department, Brainerd City Transit Coordinator Larry Nadeau resigned after less than a year on the job.
Nadeau submitted his resignation letter Monday and asked for his last day to be March 7.
"It became apparent to me that the city lacked vision for the future of the city-county transit system as a whole," Nadeau said in a resignation memo provided to The Dispatch.
He said he believes the Brainerd Transportation Advisory Committee, which Koep chairs, was allowed to act more like an executive commission with a broad range of authority.
"I felt the committee should be more focused and act as an advisory group relative to city policies," he said.
He also said he believes the committee should encompass a more diverse range of stakeholders, such as representatives from law enforcement, social services and education systems.
Nadeau said, "Further, it became painfully apparent that the city was not committed or supportive of my position or the transit department. Further, there was an unwillingness to cooperate with the county transit system, which I charge was fostered by Transportation Committee Chairperson Mary Koep.
"Koep made it clear the city would not assist the county by providing any transportation outside of the city limits of Brainerd, even when it meant greater system efficiency. Meanwhile the county buses have assisted the city buses on a daily basis in Brainerd. In times of economic budget tightening this never seemed to make sense," Nadeau wrote.
"Chairperson Koep portrays herself as a guardian of fiscal responsibility, yet she has managed to stifle the results of a cost analysis of the transit system that show annual savings of $50,000-$100,000 conservatively by bringing the system 'in-house' and eliminating a third party provider. Last, to say Mary Koep has micromanaged the transit department would be an understatement. Mary has been allowed to involve herself without my knowledge in day-to-day operations, personnel issues and contract negotiations."
In response to Nadeau's allegation that she has involved herself in the day-to-day operations, personnel issues and contract negotiations without his knowledge, Koep, who also is a Brainerd City Council member, said she received anonymous information about a personnel issue while Nadeau was on medical leave from the city, and that she gave that information to Brainerd City Administrator Dan Vogt.
"I think I had an obligation to the city," said Koep. "It's not micromanaging. It's knowing of a violation that's costing the city money, and if I'd done nothing I would've been equally guilty.
"Whether or not Larry (Nadeau) is resentful of that, I don't know. I feel I had an obligation to the city ..."
Koep, citing the state data practices act, said she couldn't comment on the specifics of the information.
In response to Nadeau's statement that Koep has not wanted to assist the county in bus transportation, Koep said the city's operating policy clearly states that city buses must operate only within the city.
Koep also said that with a 2003 city transit operating budget deficit of $28,000 expected for the city and a 2003 deficit of $120,000 expected for Crow Wing County, it wouldn't be fair for Brainerd taxpayers to assume part of the county's deficit if the city entered into a cooperative with the county.
"I feel bad for his frustrations. I think the whole issue is only getting worse with cutbacks," said Koep. "I'm appreciative because we really don't know where this (cutbacks) is going. I want Larry to go ahead and do well for himself."
Nadeau said Friday his family also played a role in his resignation. His family lives in Foley and he has been commuting to Brainerd since he started with the city March 11.
Nadeau said in the past year he has been satisfied with the countywide system in Crow Wing County. The system, which he coordinated with the city and county, began operating in July.
"There was a lot of hard work that went into this," said Nadeau. "It is a very valuable service."
He said he will do anything he can to ensure the countywide system continues to succeed.
Nadeau also said he is particularly pleased about how the system served students of Central Lakes College and the adult basic education programs through Brainerd Community Education, as well as senior citizens.
Nadeau said in his resignation letter to the city that he may be available on a part-time basis after his last day of work if the city needs further assistance.
Nadeau said he does not have any immediate plans for work.
In his resignation memo provided to The Dispatch, Nadeau said, "As a realist, I am not too proud to admit we all make mistakes. I'm sure I have made mistakes. I did the best I could under difficult circumstances and I know the city of Brainerd and Crow Wing County Transit have benefited from my time here. I take special pride in the development of the Crow Wing County system and the supportive network of people involved with the county system. In addition, I believe I have improved the safety and accountability of the transit system. ... It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Brainerd and Crow Wing County."
City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said Nadeau did an exceptional job for the city. He said Nadeau is the person who put together the countywide system and got it up and running.
Hulsether said it is difficult to predict how hard it will be to fill the position. He said a candidate for the transit coordinator must be someone who has experience in the industry.
"I hope we can find someone with the same qualifications," said Hulsether.
Vogt said Nadeau did a great job for the city and he is sad to see him leave.
The Brainerd City Council will vote on the resignation Tuesday. Vogt said then the council will discuss how it will address the resignation and vacancy.
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