Fairmont City Council division ongoing

FAIRMONT — Determining who should find interim legal services for the city generated discussion among the Fairmont City Council members Monday.

At the end of the council’s closed session April 22 for a performance evaluation of City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist, the council and mayor split evenly, with three people very satisfied with her performance and three dissatisfied. Mayor Debbie Foster then announced that the city would negotiate with Bloomquist on a separation agreement. On Monday, after authorizing the mayor and City Clerk to sign the agreement, the council then had to secure interim legal services for the city’s criminal and civil cases.

Turning over criminal cases to the Martin County Attorney received unanimous council support, but council members differed on who should secure legal services for civil cases and city staff needs.

Council member Tom Hawkins, who advocated elimination of the in-house attorney with Randy Lubenow and Ruth Cyphers, had drafted a motion authorizing him and a council member of his choosing to solicit letters of interest from area attorneys for interim civil legal services. After the motion by Cyphers and a second by Lubenow, Hawkins said Foster had agreed to work with him.

“I’d like to see Mike do it,” said Wayne Hasek, referring to Mike Humpal, city administrator.

“I completely agree with Councilor Hasek,” Councilman Bruce Peters said. “I too think that city staff should be doing this as opposed to two council people. The city staff works with the City Attorney on a daily basis. I have no interest in sticking my nose into hiring somebody that city staff has to work with on a daily basis.”

“I don’t think we need the city administrator involved,” said Hawkins, adding that interim services would be needed only for three to six months. He said the process was just a “short-term deal.”

“I think we do need to get someone outside the area to get a different perspective,” Lubenow said.

Hawkins said he “was advised” that this should be the council’s job, but more people, staff and council would be involved in selecting a permanent contract attorney.

“I’m willing to do it, but I’m not willing to do it if it’s just you and me,” Foster told Hawkins. “I think that Mike needs to be involved in every meeting because he is the administrator of our city.”

“I just didn’t think it was necessary. I still don’t think it’s necessary,” Hawkins said of Humpal’s involvement, but he agreed to Foster’s proposal.

Cyphers declined to comment on the issue.

In order to specifically include Foster and Humpal in the interim legal services search, the council voted down the original motion unanimously. When Cyphers offered a new motion for Hawkins, Foster and Humpal to obtain letters of interest from attorneys, the motion passed 3-2, with Hasek and Peters dissenting.

In other business, the council:

o Approved an event permit for the annual block party at Veterans Park from 5-8 p.m. May 22. The event, which is open to the public, is sponsored by the Fairmont United Methodist Church, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Shepherd of the Lakes Church, Grace Tabernacle Church and several community groups.

o Approved 14 on-sale liquor licenses and 13 3.2 off-sale beer licenses for local businesses, pending receipt of all required documents.

o Approved a permit for the Freedom 5K and 10K race event to be held Sept. 7.

o Approved blocking off a portion of Elm Street south of Blue Earth Avenue for the annual Memorial Day Community picnic at the Red Rock Center on May 27.

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