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Loose Lips and Tight Arteries 4/15/15 Updated 8:40 PM

Boy, was my surmise about the closed session wrong.

It was over a week ago, and it’s mostly a dead issue.  The Fire Chief has received a letter of reprimand, and I imagine he just wants the whole stinking mess to go away.  I agree, in part.

But what the hell were Council Members thinking when they came out of that CLOSED session, and started yammering to the press?  Why did it take two hours to decide to issue a letter of reprimand?  Who was the bright light who decided to release the details of the cause for the reprimand?

Oh, and by the way Mr. Nikunen, where’s my copy of the press release?  I asked on Sunday.  Today is Wednesday.

I put off writing this JUG because I wanted to temper my ire, but that’s not working.  Every time I think about fire chief fiasco, a new facet jumps into my mind, and the whole thing just looks worse.

Let’s start with standard operating procedure.

Was the Fire Chief the ranking officer on call at 2:30 AM on the day in question?  Well, oddly, there seems to be no formal procedure or schedule for duty crew officers in Jordan.  In other words, all JFD officers (and we have many) are on call all the time.  Maybe that should change.  One black mark in the JFD column.

Now let’s look at a procedure that does exist – the SOP for discipline.  In Jordan the first non-criminal breech of policy a police officer or fire fighter commits is dealt with by a verbal reprimand.  The second offense for the same type of offense would rate a letter of reprimand.  And keep your caps on, everyone.  There is a separate SOP for criminal offenses, okay?

What did the Fire Chief do?  What heinous deed bumped the punishment up one step from the norm? 

He showed up at a fire scene, in a fire truck at 2:30 AM (yes this galls me), and someone smelled alcohol on his breath.  Then someone asked the County Sheriff’s Deputy to do a field blood alcohol test – which showed a .05% BAC.  That’s substantially under the legal limit to drive.  By the way, he showed up two minutes after the alarm was sounded.  I wonder how many of us could pee, get our pants on, and get out the front door in two minutes.

Didn’t these people have enough to do, what with a fire, and all?

I’m not an expert.  I don’t have a medical degree, or any such.  But I have a brain, and a pocket-full of common sense.  A BAC of .05 is probably the result of something akin to having two beers while watching a Timberwolves game.  (If you’re a fan of good basketball, two beers may not be enough, but that’s a subject for some other JUG.)  Just a guess here, folks, but at 2:30 AM on most days a quarter of the adult population of Jordan has a BAC in the range of .05%.

Just so you understand, the Fire Chief did nothing illegal, and SOP would dictate a verbal reprimand.  I know you can understand that.  Unfortunately, most of your City Council can’t.

Moving on.

Let’s talk a bit about leadership.  (Okay, I’m doing all the talking, but you’re free to comment if you can keep it civil – something I’m struggling with right now.)

Why did that closed session take so long?  A minor infraction, with no deleterious effect, and no previous misconduct on file should have been dealt with in a few minutes.

Do you suppose the closed session was contentious?  Well, duh!  That’s why the Mayor is running it.  If the lead dog is just sitting on his tail, the rest of the team will pull in their own, usually different, directions.  Those who voted for Mayor Shaw thinking he could be an alpha made a serious mistake.  Sorry Mike, no other way to put it.  It was your job to keep that closed session moving, and you didn’t do it.

Banging the gavel because a speaker goes over three minutes during public comment isn’t decisive leadership.  Nor is letting a closed session get out of hand.

I’ve been in a few closed sessions, and without revealing any confidential information, I can tell you leadership from the Mayor is lacking.  (And yes, that’s just my opinion.)

The contentiousness must have been extreme.  I suspect Council Member Velishek was at, or near the center of contention.  I’m reminded of an incident back before I was elected.  The then editor of the JI and I were talking in the hall during a closed session, and Mathias shushed me.  He said, “I hear Tanya yelling, but I can’t quite make out what she’s saying.  I think they don’t realize the microphones are still on.”

Judging from the vote, if Councilor Velishek was on one end of the contentiousness, Councilor Will was on the other.  He does his homework.  If you’re paying attention to the Council, you can tell that from the questions he asks.  Alas, his impulse control can be  . . . well, impulsive more than controlled.

He told me for publication that he voted against the issue on the table, and I was free to wonder whether he wanted something more or less than what was decided.  I’m leaning toward less, since Councilor Velishek said (to the press, no less) she believed the letter of reprimand was inadequate.

Since she didn’t even hang around for the vote, I’m not sure that it matters what she thought.  As long as I’m in the surmising mode, I think I’m going to surmise she pitched a fit, and walked out.  She’s quoted in the JI as saying “It should be set as an example for what professionalism and leadership is in our community,” Perhaps Councilor Velishek (a City employee) should consider her stance on higher standards of leadership and professionalism the next time she passes a bottle of Jack Daniels around at a Brewers game.  And perhaps our City Administrator should have his wrists slapped for pumping beer at that same game.  After all, standards of conduct apply to everybody, right?

There’s a word on the tip of my tongue.  Let me think, it’ll come to me.

In my opinion, only two Council Members did the right thing.  Councilor Lieske said nothing publicly, but she seldom says anything about anything, and often seems (to me) to be detached, and unable to make informed comments.  Councilor Franklin has enough political experience to know when to shut up, and it seems like he thought this would be a good occasion to do so.

Councilor Goebel was called away to an emergency response, and never bothered to come back to see what was happening.  He would probably have recused himself from the vote, but he didn’t have to recuse himself from the discussion.  Maybe, just maybe, his understanding of SOP would have mattered.

Councilor Stier didn’t need to make excuses about issuing a letter of reprimand, and he shouldn’t have done so.  All he needed to do was come out of the closed session, listen to the Mayor’s summation, and wait for someone else to make a motion, and someone else to second it.  Then he could vote for or against.  I wonder if anyone else would have actually made the motion, knowing that 150 or so firefighter-influenced votes were at stake.  And believe me, the firefighters will remember.

Think about this.  There were only five members present. Presumably, Franklin, Shaw, and Lieske favored issuing the letter.  Will was opposed.  Had Stier voted against the letter, it still would have passed, but Stier would have been free to tell his friends (and I’m pretty sure he would), that he couldn’t support the letter because it was contrary to SOP.

The new editor of the JI gets a high five from me.  She pulled a lot more information out of the Council than her predecessor might have.  Or maybe she just decided to publish what Councilors told her.  I think people at City Hall might have to re-learn how to handle the press.

Winding down now.  Just one more shot to take.

A little over four years ago I was elected to the Jordan City Council.  One of the first things that happened was an indoctrination session, during which it was made very clear to me by various upholders of legality (thank you Annette, Ed, and League of Minnesota Cities) that Councilors were not supposed to discuss anything connected to a closed session with anyone.

During my term, the Council dealt with personnel issues from JPD, JFD, and city staff.  Remember Ed Shukle?  People were constantly trying to pry information out of my about those issues.  When press releases were sent, specific details were not mentioned.  This one was released for performance related issues.  That one resigned, and no other action was taken.  The other one’s contract wasn’t renewed.  Some of the details that came up in those closed sessions bordered on lurid.  Some would inspire a certain anger over the fact that they’d been allowed to develop.

Through it all, I at least, tried to keep a tight lid on what I considered confidential details of a Council action. 

Now?

Half the Council comments publicly, and somehow a BAC that isn’t criminal finds its way into the local fishwrap.

Don’t bother to come and ask me for the lurid or angersome details of closed sessions I was in.  I won’t tell you.  Though after this most recent ruckus, I can’t help but wonder if telling tales out of school might not be kind of fun.

Those of you who know me will know I think JFD is over-equipped, and has too much political power in town.  But Council Members don’t hang a fire fighter over a single blot on an otherwise clean record.  And they don’t go around flapping their gums about it afterward.  At least they didn’t when I was on the Council.  Now maybe some of the Council will have fire fighters calling them names.  I’m not sure if I’d call that progress.  Karma seems the better word.

Shifting Gears
I’ll try to be nice from here on in.  No promises though.

A friend called my attention to an article that ran in the STRIB on the 10th.

I’m quoting the STRIB story here:

Pollution raises risk of stroke

Air pollution — even for just one day — significantly increases the risk of stroke, a large review found.

Researchers pooled data from 103 studies involving 6.2 million stroke hospitalizations and deaths in 28 countries. The analysis, published online in BMJ, found that all types of pollution except ozone were associated with increased risk for stroke, and the higher the level of pollution, the more strokes there were.

The reason for the effect is unclear, but studies have shown that air pollution can constrict blood vessels, increase blood pressure and increase the risk for blood clots. Other research has tied air pollution to a higher risk of heart attacks, stroke and other ills.

The link to the STRIB story is here
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/299291201.html

You’ll have to scroll down a bit to find the part about pollution.

For enquiring minds that want to know, The BMJ is a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal originally known as the British Medical Journal. It is one of the world's oldest general medical journals.  This is a bona fide news source, not just some guy in a tinfoil hat.

Okay, that’s all I have for now.  Next week: What a builder says about Jordan, and maybe a few other odds and ends – unless some new, juicy scandal erupts.  Why didn’t anything fun ever happen when I was on the Council?

Readers Respond
To: Thom Boncher

Editor-JUG (Jordan's Fire Chief-the "rest" of the story)

This time YOU really went and did it! Don't know if you lite a fire or put it out.

But... you certainly earned yourself something like a Jordan Emmy in the Journalism/Reporting/Documentary category for your detailed first responder work, (Jordan's Fire Chief-the "rest" of the story).

HuRah!

Submitted by,
R.H. Thom

- and -

Hello Thom,

Would like to offer my opinion on this subject, and here it is.

I have come to accept the reality of your insanity. They keep doing the same thing … you keep expecting different results. My wife says I can’t hang out with you anymore … she doesn’t want me to get what you got.:)
… and even more so, what they got.

Cheers,
Rob

My Reply
C’mon Richard, get real.  The facts (too many of them) of the story were reported in the JI.  That’s where I got them.  The rest of what I wrote is educated guesses based on what I’ve observed and experienced over the years.

Besides, Emmys are for TV.  The Pulitzer is for journalism.

Thanks, though.

And Rob, does the can’t hang out ban include incidental midnight encounters at McDonald’s?  I guess everybody’s got something to hide, huh?

I don’t expect the Council to do anything different.  I’m just trying to force them to own their actions.  Even that’s a lot to hope for, I suppose.

The Quotes:
“I talk too much.”
         
Alex Meraz
           Jamie Lee Curtis
           Vin Diesel

“I talk too much. I eat too much.”
         
Willard Scott

“But far more numerous was the herd of such,
Who think too little,
and who talk too much.”
         
John Dryden

Videos are now on the Video Page

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I welcome public comment on this topic. Anyone willing to give his or her name is welcome to respond here. Thom.Boncher@gmail.com  No anonymous responses will be posted.  No obscene language will be permitted.  Threats, personal attacks, and spam will not be posted.  My house, my rules.  But if you have something to say, and if you are willing to put your name on it, I won’t refuse to let you be heard. 
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