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Accused northern Minnesota mayor skips meeting after rumors of confidence vote

Crosby Mayor Jim Hunter is pictured at an April meeting of the Crosby City Council. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch

CROSBY, Minn.—Embattled Crosby Mayor Jim Hunter did not attend a city council meeting Monday, flouting rumors there would be a vote to determine whether the council still had confidence in him to lead the city.

The Ironton-based NewsHopper in July reported "Crosby Mayor Jim Hunter might resign pending a council vote of no confidence at the next council meeting on Monday, August 14." Eric Heglund of the NewsHopper said after Monday's meeting that this information was sourced from Hunter himself.

Elected last year, Hunter was arrested in March and charged with felony theft by swindle, assault and several other charges. Hunter has so far denied calls for him to step down.

He has also been involved in multiple incidents with city staff, intertwining the criminal case against him and his role as mayor.

In a story headlined "Crosby mayor verbally abuses city clerk during council meeting," the Crosby-Ironton Courier reported Hunter angrily accosted Lisa Sova in July over expenses from the city human resources attorney and demanded she justify them. The attack prompted police Chief Kim Coughlin and city council member Bob Novak to criticize Hunter.

The council did not discuss the fireworks from their earlier meeting on Monday. However, it was not the first time Hunter had appeared threatening to Sova and other staff, according to police and media reports.

A June 15 police report, which is part of of the prosecution's evidence list against Hunter in the swindle case, said Sova called Lt. Kevin Randolph of the Crosby police. Sova said Hunter approached Jane Troge, deputy clerk, and asked if Troge was "mad at him." Troge earlier gave a statement on the theft/fraud case to Randolph.

"Troge was initially confused by the question, but was nonetheless uncomfortable by how close Hunter was standing to her," the police report stated.

The police report noted Troge's interview with police happened less than 24 hours prior to the incident with Hunter in city hall.

"Hunter told Troge that he had heard about her interview with Lt. Randolph from the 'Aitkin County Jail' because his 'ex-wife still works there,'" the report recounted.

But Randolph contacted Hunter's ex-wife, Jan Hunter, who told him she hadn't spoken with Hunter for weeks, and hadn't known about Troge talking to police.

Troge feared for her safety because of Hunter's associates, the police report stated.

An affidavit by Hunter concerning the incident said the discussion lasted less than a minute and he "by no means meant to intimidate or harass (Troge) in any way."

"I am concerned that she was pressured by Lisa Sova, Crosby Clerk/Treasurer, who has consistently shown opposition to my position as Mayor and is a friend both with Lt. Randolph and Chief Coughlin," Hunter stated. "I am also concerned that (Troge) was pressured by Lt. Randolph, who has been pressuring people in the community to make statements against me."

Sova was present at Monday's meeting, but declined to comment on the June city hall incident. Coughlin said the report was forwarded to the county attorney.

As for the criminal charges filed in Crow Wing County Court in March against Hunter they weaved allegations of a love affair intertwined with an illegal financial scheme, culminating in confrontation and gunplay. Together with alleged lover and accomplice Candice Ann McCartan, Hunter reportedly ran a confidence trick against her husband, a criminal complaint stated.

Thomas McCartan reported Hunter for a number of alleged crimes, chiefly the swindling of $90,000.

Thomas McCartan told police that his wife and Hunter convinced him to purchase Buy Sell Trade, one of Hunter’s businesses on 2 East Main St. in Crosby. McCartan had been working for Hunter at Buy Sell Trade for about two years, the charges said.

Hunter’s pitch was that owning the store would be steady income, and that it would help fix their credit problems, according to the criminal complaint. Hunter allegedly got Thomas McCartan to believe the store made $8,000 and $12,000 a month in revenue. Since his wife was there when Hunter told him this and didn’t dispute it, Thomas McCartan figured it to be true, the charges said.

Hunter also reportedly told Thomas McCartan the sale price was $45,000. But several days later, after Thomas McCartan had already signed the sale documents, he found out he was actually required to pay Hunter $90,000 via a lien placed on his home.

As Thomas McCartan was divorcing Candice McCartan, his divorce attorney examined the sale documents, and it turned out what Thomas McCartan had actually bought was the inventory of the store, some computers, the cash register and the ATM machine. The value of the purchase was between $5,000 and $7,000, his attorney told him -- a far cry from the $90,000 he was supposed to pay.

A later conversation between Hunter and Thomas McCartan's son allegedly resulted in Hunter pointing a handgun toward him with his finger on the trigger.