Council Member Walks Out of Heated Debate on Osseo’s 150th Celebration Committee
The Osseo City Council debate on the city’s 150th anniversary celebration became heated on April 24 as one council member stormed out of the meeting.
Osseo was founded in 1875. A 150th anniversary celebration is tentatively planned for the city in 2025.
Several members of the council brought forward concerns about an unsanctioned committee managing the celebration.
“(City) staff was recently made aware of a meeting set up by (Osseo City) Council member (Harold) Johnson to be held on April 26 at Realife Coop,” wrote Riley Grams, city administrator. “Before this announcement, staff was not aware that any formal committee had been discussed and/or approved by the City Council.”
Osseo City Council Members Juliana Hultstrom, Mark Schulz and Alicia Vickerman said they were concerned with Johnson’s actions.
They said his actions potentially constituted violations of open meeting law and the city’s respectful workplace policy.
Meanwhile, Johnson said the committee is independent from the city and doesn’t need to ask for council approval.
He packed up his belongings and left the meeting mid-discussion.
Creation of 150th celebration planning
Johnson said that “many comments in the council packet and spoken before regarding the 150th celebration committee have numerous errors (and) omissions mainly aimed at me.”
According to Johnson, volunteers and groups independent from the city planned the 100th anniversary celebration in 1975. Recently, “a few from that period and many others with a strong interest in Osseo have indicated an interest in the 150th planning,” he said.
Johnson said he asked city staff members to help organize meetings related to the celebration but received no response.
He later contacted members of the Osseo Historical Preservation Committee to organize a meeting, he said.
“If this is (an open meeting law) violation, it is because staff did not take the action necessary,” he said. “They had nothing to do with the 100th, so why are they trying to take over the 150th?” he said.
All members of the public are welcome at the committee meetings, he said.
“If the city employees were not bringing it to the city council for discussion, it was not my part to bring it to this council,” Johnson said. “I’ve done what I think is necessary.”
Johnson said the committee’s planning work “will go on whether I have city blessings or not because there’s nothing wrong with holding this particular group, having a planning meeting — there is nothing in the legal documents that stops us from having such a meeting.”
The committee isn’t asking for city funding to host the celebration, Johnson said.
He also noted that he spoke on the committee’s plans during council meeting announcement periods.
Johnson’s explanation did not quiet the council’s concerns.
Hultstrom noted her respect for Johnson, but said she felt compelled to question his actions.
“This council was left out, and this council is still is left out, and this whole thing has been taken hostage and planned,” Hultstrom said. “I can’t say enough that I really feel that you got impatient with this and that you disrespected the rest of your fellow council members.”
Hultstrom said Johnson should have asked the council to discuss the committee’s formation during a public meeting.
The idea that the city wouldn’t have any involvement with the organization planning its celebration is “preposterous,” Vickerman said.
The council needs to operate under a shared set of norms, she said.
Vickerman added that she feels there has been “a perpetuating of accusations or unfounded rumor-type things,” during council meetings this year.
“It can feel slanderous and I just don’t think that that’s the way this body needs to operate,” she said.
No single member of the council can provide direction to city staff, Schulz said. He accused Johnson of “disparaging” city staff members.
This incident was “just an example of a recurring pattern of behavior that people are concerned about,” Schulz said.
The council will address formal creation of the committee on a future agenda.