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Menahga staff files formal grievance addressing city council member concerns

MENAHGA -- Menahga city administrative staff filed a formal grievance to address issues with a city councilmember.

In the letter, Teri Osterman, Susie Larson and Joline Floyd say the action was filed "due to the continued bullying we have been receiving from council member Maxine Norman."

The City Council discussed the matter in an emergency meeting Thursday after holding a closed meeting to discuss preliminary allegations involving the city administrator, Osterman, and negotiations dealing with the Markkula property for Greenwood Connections Nursing Home.

A motion was made after reopening the meeting that no further action would be taken after reviewing the allegations against the city administrator.

Earlier Thursday morning, Osterman presented the grievance to the administrative committee. In the grievance, the administrative staff requested a reply within 24 hours.

"The grievance policy first indicates that the employee will approach their immediate supervisor in an attempt to settle the grievance," said city attorney Jeff Pederson. The direct supervisor for Osterman is the City Council.

The grievance procedure anticipates a formal exchange to try and resolve issues, Pederson said.

The City Council decided to have the discussion right away rather than delay it.

"What is the employee's real intent here other than to voice your dissatisfaction?" asked councilmember Joel Mickelson.

"I want it to stop, that's all I want," Osterman said. She said she was receiving complaints and criticisms from Norman.

"I don't want this city to have any more negative issues, negative problems, I would like people to start working together," Osterman said.

Administrative staff wrote in the grievance that Norman "is creating a hostile work environment and is preventing the city office from fulfilling their duties."

Larson, the city's deputy clerk, said the administrative staff has been trained for their jobs and yet are constantly criticized.

City councilmember Kim Rasmussen said the council needs to figure out a way to work with the city administrator.

"There is this negativity out there," Rasmussen said. Some of the issues the City Council deals with are nit-picky, she said.

"There are bigger things in life," she said.

Mayor Larson said he thinks the council needs to trust the city employees more.

Councilmember Norman said she learns by asking questions.

"I've tried to learn as much as I can," Norman said. "I've also tried to bring things to the table. As far as getting scolded at this table and getting beaten up verbally, that's happened to me quite a bit.

"So, you're right, we're in a very bad working relationship."

Norman said she heard criticism because she asked for too much information and criticism because she doesn't come into the city office.

"Where's the balance?" Norman asked.

"We'll need to work that out and find out," Osterman said.

Rasmussen said each councilmember works differently and "somewhere we have to find the middle."

Mayor Larson said the council also needs to take more action and give direction to staff.

"We can't just sit at the table and say, 'I think this and that' ... we've got to give action, explicit direction of what they should do," Larson said.

Osterman said she's confident city staff can work together with everyone on the council. Osterman, Larson and Floyd said they wouldn't continue with the grievance process at this time as long as they can work on improving the relationship with Norman and the rest of the council.

"We'll give it time to work," Osterman said.