Special meeting held Oct. 17.

City Councilor Larry Braun has been censured by the Sleepy Eye City Council for conduct described as “acting beyond the scope of his office and authority.”

This action was taken at a special council meeting on Thursday evening, Oct. 17, held to consider allegations against Braun.

The allegation came in a complaint that was brought before the council at their July 9 regular meeting. At that time the council determined that an email from River View Sanitation owner, Brent Kucera, constituted a complaint under the City’s Code of Conduct and scheduled a hearing on July 22.

At the July 22 hearing, Mayor Wayne Pelzel read the allegations from River View Sanitation’s co-owner, Brent Kucera (the following is reprinted from a July 25 Herald-Dispatch article) — that Braun called Kucera on Dec. 3, 2018 and threatened Kucera with the city getting a lawyer involved; threatened Kucera with the status of his contract; was not receptive to Kucera’s responses and was very aggressive toward the path of a lawyer; and that Kucera was not abiding by the contract.

Braun responded that he did call Kucera, but did not threaten him. “He’s not telling the truth,” said Braun.

At that time (July 22) the council voted to hire a third party investigator to investigate the complaint.

Several days prior to the Oct. 17 meeting, the City Council received the Investigation Memorandum from Investigator Michelle M. Soldo, Attorney & Consultant, Soldo Consulting, P.C. Councilor Braun also received the memorandum and was notified be would have the opportunity to respond during the Oct. 17 meeting.

The resolution of censure included the City Council findings that:

“A. On December 3, 2018, without Council authorization and, in contravention of the Code of Conduct, Councilor Braun called RVS Co-owner Brent Kucera, alleged that RVS was not abiding by its contract with the City, mentioned contacting a lawyer, and implied that RVS’ contract with the City was in jeopardy.

“B. In response to the Complaint and during the investigation into the Complaint, Councilor Braun engaged in antagonistic and unprofessional behavior, direct evidence that he is capable of behaving in the caustic manner alleged by RVS Co-owner Brent Kucera.”

The resolution also states that Braun is directed to not make any communication as a City Council member directly with City vendors that violates the Code of Conduct; and that he is “prohibited from being assigned to any committee, liaison, or representative role for the City Council that relates to City refuse collection, transportation, and/or disposal.”

After all the council members had received a print out of the resolution, but prior to voting to approve it, Councilor Braun read his response. While he spoke for several minutes, his main contention was that the investigation should not have been conducted, because more than 30 days passed from the time of the complaint until the start of the investigation. He said Kucera’s complaint came from the Dec. 3, 2018 email.

Attorney Brandon Fitzsimmons of Flaherty and Hood, the firm that advises Minnesota cities, said the actual complaint was made July 1 and the first hearing was held July 22.

Councilor Joann Schmidt made a motion to approve the resolution of censure, seconded by Gary Windschitl, and passed unanimously.

The City of Sleepy Eye Code of Conduct for Elected and Appointed Officials, was adopted by the City Council in July of 2017 in response to the investigation report on Braun’s conduct directed at City employees, described as “inappropriate and unacceptable as it is beyond the scope of the office and authority of any individual City Councilor.”