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Letters to the Editor: It's the law

You'd think that of all institutions, city councils would be very careful to follow the law. Right?

But when a former employee of Nisswa requested he be paid in cash for unused vacation, sick leave and health savings rather than according to city policy, there was quite a discussion at last week's Nisswa council meeting.

In 2007, the council adopted a policy through the Minnesota State Retirement System that allowed employees to keep money in a fund to be distributed when they retired or left (half would go to a health savings account and half to be paid out in cash). There was tax savings to the employee under the state plan. The state rules apparently do not allow a full cash payout.

There were several different motions made by council members, some to give the employee a total cash payout. When the city attorney questioned the legality, one council person was heard to say, "Well, does the state have to know?"

Oops, I certainly hope that remark was made in jest.

Then the council batted around the idea of canceling the seven-year-old city policy and making a full payout. There was little discussion as to what effect canceling the policy would have on other city employees who would be affected by the change, possibly very negatively.

Each council member said they were completely in favor of making a full payout (in opposition to the city policy guidelines) but were not sure if they could legally do it.

What should have been a relative simple issue consumed a good half-hour of discussion, with a decision to table and discuss the issue at a later date.

Things can be complicated and murky or clear and straight forward, depending on how you approach them. Let's hope the council gets it right.

Don Jacobson,