Readers’ Views

Who are the victims?

To the Editor:

Fairmont City Councilman Tom Hawkins is a victim? And now Councilman Randy Lubenow claims the same? They say their names have been dragged through the mud and they are being treated unfairly. If there was one conclusion I gleaned from the Monday, May 13, meeting of the City Council, it is that clearly these two are not the victims. The victims are the citizens of Fairmont, some of our employees at City Hall, and our now former City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist. They are victims of a fast-moving slick politician named Hawkins. We are the truly muddied. Hawkins and Lubenow are the mud-slingers.

This is my third revised letter to the editor because the events at City Hall have been whizzing by so fast I can’t seem to thoughtfully think through what I believe best to say, draft the letter and get it submitted for possible publication before the narrative has completely changed.

My first letter expressed indignation at the sneaky way that Councilman Hawkins was going behind the rest of the council’s backs to depose Bloomquist and the absolutely despicable way he treated her. I do not know her, but any city employee of over 30 years service deserves better treatment. Hawkins is obviously not a nice guy when he intends to get someone out of his sight. Come to find out, I was so slow in my response that she had already been shown the door without reasonable discussion by the people and the entire City Council.

Because of that, I signed on to the recall petition to remove Councilman Hawkins, then drafted my second letter that I believed might be published Tuesday, May 14. In it, I asked that the voters of Fairmont join me in this endeavor, as we obviously have a loose cannon in our midst. I was too slow again. An attorney hired by the city has deemed that the recall effort was out of line. The petition is invalid and must be re-done if there is to be a vote. I understand that hundreds of people had signed the original petition. Obviously, more than a few are also not happy with what Mr. Hawkins is doing.

Meanwhile, three Sentinel editions in a row included letters supportive of Mr. Hawkins. Councilman Hawkins says the Sentinel is unfair and biased toward him. Sure doesn’t look unfair and biased to me.

So I am now drafting letter to the editor No. 3. All these events now beg one to wonder if, with a couple more steps, Mr. Hawkins will be “THE” City Council, the real acting mayor and actual city administrator.

I hate to be the one to inform you, Mayor Debbie Foster, but you working with Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Humpal on finding new attorneys for the city will become Mr. Hawkins having you rubber stamp the attorney he has already had in the wings for however long he has been planning this coup.

I suppose it makes things look good on paper, but the two “no” votes — First Ward Councilman Bruce Peters and Fourth Ward Councilman Wayne Hasek — perhaps might consider taking a vacation as they and their constituents are no longer important. Mr. Hawkins has his three votes and you are out-voted.

I know this: We had adequate counsel with in-house City Attorney Bloomquist, and she was also the city’s prosecutor and even worked in human resources. All at a real bargain compared to the arm and a leg that Fairmont will now have to pay. I know the county prosecutor is already way too busy to take on the city’s criminal cases, and that will be unfair for the county and the city, and even those being prosecuted. The city essentially will be replacing three people, all because Mr. Hawkins seems to have a hatred for Attorney Bloomquist.

I hope the recall petition will be reworked and made “legal.” If that can be done, I will personally help by going around to those who already signed it and get their new signatures.

Jack H. Hansen

Fairmont

Shame on them

To the Editor:

I am Libby Bloomquist’s sister. I live in Carver, Minnesota, and served as a City Council member and mayor here, having just retired from the council this last year. In my 24 years serving my city I thought I had seen everything council members could dish up, but now I guess not.

I am appalled by the actions of three relatively new Fairmont City Council members, Tom Hawkins and Ruth Cyphers having served for just over two years, and Randy Lubenow for less than five months. They need to learn that a city government is only as competent and strong as its city staff. These three nubile council members decided to cut loose 30 years of experience and institutional history without any assurance that the replacement will be cheaper or provide better service.

There will be no smooth transition to a new attorney as the old one will not be there to facilitate it. And then there is the ripple effect: remaining city staff is caused consternation because a co-worker was unjustly terminated; the city’s reputation has taken a good blow — “Look what those yahoos in Fairmont did!”; and, most importantly, residents are concerned about how some members of their city council are functioning. Clearly not very well.

All for what? Some personal agenda? What is the likelihood that three new council members would individually have the same idea, be on the same page so to speak, prior to any public City Council meeting discussion about contract legal services? Did any of them campaign on the idea of contracting for legal services or getting rid of their competent City Attorney? Did they ever ask to have it on an agenda prior to knowing they had the three votes they needed to “effectively terminate” their City Attorney? One may wonder who they have waiting in the wings to take her place. This is not passing the whiff test — there is an aroma of Open Meeting Law violation.

Libby was planning to retire in the next few years, but instead she was unceremoniously dumped from her position after having served the best interests of Fairmont for over 30 years — Fairmont the city, not individual council members.

Council members concerned for their community might have investigated the feasibility of contracted legal services then, if they chose to follow that path, could have chosen to do so upon their long-tenured City Attorney’s retirement.

The actions of Hawkins, Cyphers and Lubenow are impetuous and possibly illegal. They should be ashamed of themselves, and they certainly do not deserve future terms on the Fairmont City Council.

Cindy Monroe

Carver

No reason for tax hikes

To the Editor:

There has been little movement toward agreement on overall state budget targets as House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz have not compromised one penny from their proposed $12 billion in tax increases.

It’s tough for conference committees to do their work when they have no idea how much they’re supposed to allocate to various areas within state government. We have a nearly $1.5 billion budget surplus but the Democrats won’t eliminate any of their tax increases. If you’re looking for a reason why compromise isn’t happening, that’s it.

There are only a few days left before the Minnesota Legislature is required to adjourn for the year.

The $12 billion in tax increases House Democrats and Gov. Walz had proposed on Minnesotans includes a 20-cent per gallon gas tax — a 70 percent increase — as well as an increase in health care costs.

They have not made the case that taxes need to be raised. In fact, a recent budget analysis found that during the month of April alone, Minnesota has $489 million more in revenue that was forecast, driven by higher individual and corporate income tax revenues. If you’re looking to point fingers at why we’re in danger of not finishing on time, look straight to Gov. Walz and House Democrats who want to take and waste more of your money.

State Rep. Bob Gunther

R-Fairmont

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