I feel the need to respond to Gary Scheeler's guest forum "Olson vote was a conflict" published in this paper, Nov. 30. In this letter, northeast Brainerd's alderman accuses Bob Olson of a "conflict of interest" when Mr. Olson voted on an issue that directly affected him personally.
The issue is a simple one. North Brainerd has recently undergone some major sidewalk improvements. The property owners in north Brainerd have to pay for these improvements over a period of time by way of an assessment. The problem comes in when the citizens of Brainerd are asked to pay an additional $22,000 on top of the original estimate.
Now, this is important. Alderman Mary Koep, after hearing the testimony of the citizens, made a motion that the city pay the cost difference between the original estimate and the current cost. This passed 4 to 2, Bob Olson voted for it.
In Mr. Scheeler's letter, this is what he says constitutes Bob Olson's conflict of interest. He also insinuates that the city attorney agrees with him by using the line "This letter is a follow-up on a request that I made to the City Attorney regarding the "Conflict of Interest" pertaining to Alderman Olson." in his Nov. 26 letter. That is simply not true. When the question was asked if what Mr. Olson did was a conflict of interest, Tom Fitzpatrick did not respond with an opinion.
When Bob Olson voted on Mary Koep's motion it was no more of a conflict of interest than when any one of the council members votes on anything that affects the city. Mr. Olson is a north Brainerd resident. Things that affect north Brainerd will affect him. It is interesting to note that Bob has offered to exclude himself from having his assessment lowered, however the will of the council would not allow it. He has told me personally that he will simply write a check to the city for the difference. In his case that's about $300. Gary Scheeler states in letter "The law clearly defines what a conflict of interest is." If that is true, I wish he would have cited the ordinance, because I can't find it.
I think it is also important to remember that Bob Olson has spent the last three years on the council as a watchdog for the taxpayers. I know the council is sick of hearing about it, but Bob saved the Gregory Park Fountain when it was slated for destruction. They said it would cost $110,000 to repair it and Bob got it done for a fraction of that. He worked diligently on the new police station and the northeast fire station helping to save the tax payers of Brainerd about 4 million dollars in the process. Bob Olson worked personally with the party that became the buyer for the state hospital land. The city made about half a million on that sale. And every day Bob is out there trying making sure the citizens of Brainerd are being dealt a fair hand.
What has Gary Scheeler done to benefit the city of Brainerd, other than trying to block the committee meetings from being aired on public access, and trying to do a hostile takeover of Oak Lawn Township?
(Taylor is a downtown Brainerd business owner and a Merrifield resident.)
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.