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No action taken on request to remove two Meeker County commissioners from HRA board

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

LITCHFIELD -- Amid claims that two Meeker County Commissioners acted inappropriately, some residents of a subsidized apartment complex in Dassel are asking that those commissioners be removed from the governing board that oversees the apartments.

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The request was presented in a letter submitted last week at the Meeker County Board of Commissioners meeting.

No action was taken by the County Board, but allegations against the two county commissioners are being investigated, according to Meeker County Attorney Stephanie Beckman.

The request to remove the county commissioners from their appointment to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority board stems from a long-running and complicated dispute involving the HRA board, the HRA director and the County Board.

Caught in the middle are the mostly elderly residents of the 17 apartments in Dassel.

"It'll all come out in the wash," said Commissioner Amy Wilde, who is in the thick of the conflict. She denies any wrongdoing and said actions have been misinterpreted and misunderstood.

She also said the HRA is "wasting money" on "frivolous" charges.

Beckman said she received a complaint last month that Wilde and Commissioner Wally Strand assaulted and harassed residents in the Dassel apartments in October. To avoid a conflict of interest, Beckman said she asked the Wright County Sheriff's Department to handle the investigation.

"It's out of my hands," said Beckman.

Last month, Judge Steven Drange denied a harassment restraining order against Wilde and Strand that had been requested by an individual after the two commissioners went to the apartments to talk to residents.

In an earlier interview, Wilde said she and Strand went to the apartments to dispel rumors, calm residents' fears and correct information published in letters to the editor that suggested the apartments were in jeopardy.

"We tried to reassure them they won't be losing their housing," said Wilde. Some of the residents thanked them for coming, she said.

But HRA Director Sandy Tischer -- who has sought previous opinions from the Attorney General questioning the county's authority to appoint county commissioners to the HRA board -- said residents told her Wilde and Strand physically and verbally strong-armed them, called them liars and threatened them.

The residents were very upset, said Tischer, whose three-year contract has been questioned by the County Board.

Copies of a letter that was distributed during the County Board meeting Tuesday by Mildred Hendrickson, a 92-year-old resident at the apartments and president of a newly formed resident council, reiterated the assault and harassment claims.

The letter said Wilde and Strand created "pandemonium" at the apartments "causing many tenants to still be under duress today."

The letter asks that Strand and Wilde be removed from the HRA board.

They "are not appropriately acting on behalf of the clients served by the Meeker County HRA, nor citizens for which they are elected," the letter says.

County Administrator Paul Virnig said the county commissioners reassured Hendrickson, Tischer and several other residents who were at the meeting on Tuesday that there are no known plans to change how the apartments are run.

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