Brainerd City Council members were scheduled to discuss council member Bob Olson's resignation from the Safety and Public Works Committee on Tuesday but the discussion turned into a shouting match and it seemed nothing was resolved on the original question.
Olson resigned last month so he could do consulting work for council member Gary Scheeler. He said he didn't want his potential business discussions with Scheeler to be a violation of Minnesota's Open Meeting Law. The council rejected the resignation on a 4-3 vote but Olson remained adamant that he wouldn't serve on the panel.
The council can't very well force Olson to serve on a committee but by the same token it certainly doesn't have to appoint him to the other standing committee, the Personnel and Finance Committee.
There's no charter requirement that a city council member serve on any committee but it's been a longstanding tradition that council members are assigned to one of two standing committees, safety and public works or personnel and finance.
There are options open to Olson. One of them is to decline the offer to serve as consultant to Scheeler's business. Another option is to step down from the council if his membership is preventing him from pursuing business opportunities.
Some Brainerd voters may feel short-changed if Olson doesn't serve on a standing committee. Others may not feel that it's important.
One of the points raised in this discussion has been criticism that both standing committees meet at the same time, just prior to council meetings. This means the public and council members must choose to attend one meeting or the other when they might have an interest in attending both.
The council should juggle the schedule for the city's two standing committees so that the times don't conflict. Rescheduling the meetings at different times would also allow staff members to attend both meetings, if needed.
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