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Clerk/Treasurer Max resigns, reconsiders

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Crosslake Clerk/Treasurer Jenny Max had turned in her resignation to the Crosslake City Council on Friday, March 8, but reconsidered when the council looked at a proposal for her to stay at their regular meeting Monday night, March 11.

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Accepting Max’s letter of resignation was one of the first matters of business for the council, but council member Steve Roe asked the council to wait.

“We will have to take action immediately if we accept her resignation, because we will not be able to do basic accounting functions without a clerk/treasurer on board,” Roe said.

Roe presented the council with a proposal Max wrote in January. At that time, she was serving as interim city administrator. Max’s proposal combined the city’s three positions- deputy clerk, clerk/treasurer and city administrator- into two positions, administrator/treasurer and clerk. Max and current deputy clerk Char Nelson would fill those two positions.

Both would receive a pay raise in the process, and Max’s proposal showed that the city would save money by eliminating a position.

When the proposal was first introduced to the council in January, but the council took no action. Roe suggested the council reconsider the proposal.

Max said she did not expect her proposal to be reconsidered Monday night.

“I am willing to listen if there is something that was presented to me,” Max said, commenting on her position before the council. “I needed to see some step up. It didn’t seem at this point the council was going in that direction.”

Max said she resigned to take a job in California because she hoped to progress in her field, and didn’t necessarily see that happening in Crosslake.

Council members John Moengen and Mark Wessels indicated that they were not happy to see Max go, and appreciated the work she had done.

“I think the reason this didn’t get acted on (in January) is because we didn’t know where we were going yet,” Moengen said of the proposal.

Mayor Darrell Schneider indicated that his main issue with Max’s proposal was the salary she was requesting. The proposal listed the administrator/treasurer position at a salary of $99,276.75. Former administrator Tom Swenson was paid $82,215.

Max explained that she used a formula to arrive at the salary. When asked if that figure was flexible, Max said, “It was at the time. It’s a little less flexible now.”

Steve Roe commented on his case for keeping Max in the city.

“If Jennifer (Max) leaves, I think we’re in big trouble,” he said. “I think we’ve been taunted to run this place like a business. Let’s be practical. Let’s keep it running. If I had done this in any of the businesses I have run, they’d be shut down.”

Coincidentally, Schneider had brought forward a consultant for the city to consider hiring to look into staffing needs. Schneider introduced Dan Vogt, former city administrator for Brainerd, as a candidate for administrative consulting.

Vogt said he would be willing to work with the city through its issues, and was willing to bring together a salary study for the positions in Max’s proposal.

Vogt’s rate is $60 an hour, he said.

Several residents spoke on the matter during open forum. Some spoke in favor of keeping Max in the city; another suggested allowing her to resign. Those comments, by Roger Roy, offended several people who responded to him publicly.

Roy said, “One thing about the city staff I’ve found out is they don’t listen to the residents, the part time residents or the businesses of Crosslake. It’s a proven fact.”

The mayor stopped Roy at that point.

Police Chief Robert Hartman spoke to the council expressing his disagreement and offense to Roy’s statements, as did former city clerk Darlene Roach.

At the suggestion of another resident who spoke, the council chose to recess the meeting after the rest of the agenda was discussed, then reconvene Thursday morning, March 14, at 9 a.m. with a salary study from Vogt for discussion.

Ideally, that information will allow the city to decide if the proposal is feasible, and for Max to decide whether or not she will choose to resign.

Max marks the fourth city employee to hand in a resignation since December, 2012. Former city administrator Tom Swenson resigned in December, Edy Asell, planner-zoner coordinator recently resigned, and former city attorney Michael Couri asked not to be considered as the city attorney for 2013.

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