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Maple Lake City Council censures mayor over behavior

By Stephanie Dickrell, St. Cloud Times, Minn. –

March 12–MAPLE LAKE — The people of Maple Lake will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, but they’ll do so without the official representation of Mayor Mike O’Loughlin.

After complaints were filed with the city for two separate incidents at a fire department function in January, the mayor was censured by the City Council and stripped of any duties not stipulated by statute.

Two people filed complaints — supported by two witnesses — with the city on Jan. 30 and 31 about events that occurred at a fire department banquet Jan. 28.

The mayor was accused of making inappropriate comments, commenting on women’s looks, mentioning “dirty thoughts” and asking a firefighter’s wife to sit on his lap.

After the complaints were brought to his attention, the mayor apologized in writing.

O’Loughlin has said he believes the council’s actions were personally and politically motivated and that he wants to move on from the incident. In an email responding to telephone inquiries by the Times, he wrote he will not speak further on the incident.

The council has spent parts of three meetings over the past month and a half on deciding how to respond to the complaints. A special meeting was convened Feb. 9 specifically to look at the issue. The mayor’s term is up at the end of the year.

The council originally asked for the mayor’s resignation, but O’Loughlin refused.

Restrictions

O’Loughlin’s access to city property — including City Hall, the fire department, the liquor store, maintenance buildings and others — was blocked, except as a member of the public or to conduct council meetings.

The council also stripped O’Loughlin of his duties except those designated in state law, such as running council meetings, and signing checks and documents. All other responsibilities, including acting as an official representative of the city, were delegated to the Mayor Pro Tem John Northenscold Sr.

The council also voted to require the mayor, council and city staff to attend harassment training.

Reaction to the incident was handled by council members Lynn Kissock, Deb Geyen and Shar Dircks. Northenscold recused himself because his grandson and his wife were two of the complainants.

The council adopted a public censure at the Feb. 14 meeting:

“The City Council of the City of Maple Lake hereby censures Mayor Mike O’Loughlin for his conduct at the Fire Department Banquet on January 28, 2012.
The Council finds that Mayor O’Loughlin’s behavior was inappropriate and that his behavior reflects poorly on the City and the Council. The Council takes this breach of conduct very seriously and has imposed disciplinary action against Mayor O’Loughlin based on the complaints received.”

Public apology

O’Loughlin was also required to make a public apology at the March 1 meeting.

“I apologize if my comments were interpreted in a manner that offended anyone. I certainly did not intend them to be offensive,” he said. “I have previously issued written apologies to the parties involved and believe it is now time to put this matter behind us and city business before us.”

Kissock said similar comments were made to her by O’Loughlin in the past.

“Too many comments have been made, too many times this has been brought up and mentioned,” she said at a meeting. “Finally, somebody made a complaint. That is why we have taken it to the point it has been taken. It’s not political.”

Dircks said the accusations reminded her of comments she had to deal with when entering the workforce 50 years ago.

“Well, that’s what hit me. My God, what we went through 50 years ago. Is this coming back? I don’t want that,” she said. “We had to fight for everything we got.”

Geyen said she was uncomfortable with O’Loughlin representing the city.
“I would have stepped down,” she said at a meeting. “He won’t be able to fully do the elected job he was supposed to do.”

To watch complete videos of the meetings or review copies of the minutes, visit www.ci.maple-lake.mn.us.

minutes from the Feb. 9 special council meeting where the council decided to take disciplinary action on the mayor’s actions.

Minutes from the Feb. 14 council meeting where the city council approved a public censure of the mayor.

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