Ely Buzz Blog 29 February 2012; Gordon’s Got Me Buzzing, by Iron Mike Hillman
I’ve seen a long of strange things happen at the Ely City Hall, but last night was one of those nights that will long linger in my memory. About a month ago someone sent me an anonymous letter. As soon as I noticed that the neatly typed letter had no signature alarm bells started to go off, because most unsigned letters are hurtful and hateful. I am accustomed to them. I got my fair share of them during my tenure as the general manager of WELY Radio, and the four years I served on the Ely City Council. When I was on the radio, I would edit out the profanity and read them on the air. When I served on the council, I would just let them go. Like it or not such things are legal under the First Amendment of our Constitution, and there really isn’t much to be done about them. It’s called freedom of speech, and even nasty and negative speech is covered. Oh, there are exceptions like libel or slander, and some of the worst of it is illegal because it is deemed a hate crime but other than that freedom of speech is wide open.
Much to my surprise, when I read the letter, it wasn’t hurtful or hateful, which made the letter unique. It is the only anonymous letter I’ve received that actually had something good to say. The letter told me that the Ely Charter Commission had been approached by a concerned citizen over alleged violations made by former Ely City Clerk Terri Boese during the 2010 election. The letter told me that the Charter Commission was under siege by certain members of the Ely City Council who didn’t want these allegations of misconduct to come to the public’s attention. The unknown author told me that I had a reputation for being an honest man who wasn’t afraid to state his opinion, and that our city needed someone to stand up, look into the matter, and then to publicly write about what I found. It also suggested that I join the Charter Commission to help insure for the continued proper conduct of our City Council.
After thinking about it for a couple of days, I went up to City Hall and told the acting city clerk that I was interested in joining the Charter Commission. She told me that I had missed the dead line to fill one of the seats on the commission, and I thanked her for her time. Later on I got a hold of the packet of information of the allegations during the 2010 election and I dug into what turned out to be very comprehensive list. After studying the packet twice, I thought that the charges levied were worthy of investigating, and was happy to learn that Larry Wellvang was going to appear before the local council to present these allegations for public consideration.
I was invited to attend the Charter Commission earlier this month, and I was surprised to hear that Gordon Sheddy had publicly expressed his displeasure at a council meeting that one of our citizens was questioning the conduct of our former city clerk and that this was something that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. I was even more surprised to learn the two members of the city council; Warren Nikola and Gordon Sheddy had tried to join the Charter Commission. Rather than going through the proper channels that I did, both of these people sent letters directly to the judge, but the time limit had expired for them just as it had expired for me. Apparently they thought that because they had the privilege of position that they were above the rules which applied to the rest of us. Fortunately the judge played by the rules, and neither councilor could get on the Charter Commission.
I said fortunately, because I value good government, and I believe that no member of the council should be allowed to serve on the Charter Commission. I believe it is a counter productive to good city government. It is my understanding that good government needs to have checks and balances to make sure that our local government is conducted in a proper manner. Ely is a Charter City which means that it must operate under the rules of a local charter meant to insure that our city council operates in a legal, moral, and ethical manner. The only check and balance to our City Council is the Charter Commission. I believe that any merging of the Ely City Council or its Charter Commission is counter productive to maintaining good city government. These two city agencies need to be kept separate in order to insure that everything is above board in our city.
Last night Larry Wellvang finally had a chance to address the Ely City Council about his concerns over the conduct and outcome of the local results of the 2010 election. I believe the council needs to address Mr. Wellvang’s questions, like what happened to the 681 voters that were there in the 2008 election but not there in 2010. Where did they go, and what happened to them? I would like that explained to me as well as many other questions raised by Mr. Wellvang. I commend both the council and commission for conducting business in a dignified and business like manner at the February 28th meeting.
The next event really got me buzzing. Towards the end of the joint meeting between the Council and The Charter Commission, all of a sudden Councilor Gordon Sheddy stood up and introduced a letter into the meeting. It was a personal letter that someone, unknown, sent to Dassel, Minnesota, the city where Terri Boese is now working as a city clerk. It was not a complimentary letter, and Gordon Sheddy was incensed that someone could send such a letter about a person whom Gordon Sheddy holds in high esteem. Councilor Sheddy stated that he wanted the Ely City Council to send an official letter from the City of Ely, countering the negative and unsigned letter sent confidentially to Terri Boese’s bosses in Dassel Minnesota.
I don’t understand Councilor Sheddy’s conduct last night, because many questions stated in the Dassal letter are the same questions raised in Mr. Wellvang’s packet delivered to the city council last night. I’m sorry Gordon, while you might think the letter was out of line, such things are covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s called freedom of speech, and perhaps you should read the Constitution again so you will understand that even though you might not agree with someone that it doesn’t mean they lose their right to write or speak how they feel. Had you not done what you did, no one in Ely would have known that this letter even existed, but you made what was meant to be a confidential letter a matter of public record. I can think of no greater damage that could possibly be done to Terrie Boese’s reputation than you making this nasty letter a matter of public record. You could have sent a private letter to Dassal, Minnesota expressing your high opinion of Terri Boese, but you chose to make it a public affair. I don’t know why you chose to do this to someone you supposedly hold in high esteem, but perhaps the answer will come to light at the next city council meeting when you can explain your actions and after you have reviewed the information presented by Mr. Wellvang. That being said, this blogger thinks the Charter needs to be amended to prevent any member of the Ely City Council from serving on the Charter Commission so that no one serving on the council can destroy the system of checks and balances needed to insure the proper conduct of government.