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Mediator reports Spicer City Hall disputes nearly resolved

SPICER -- A city-hired mediator reported Wednesday that most of the "personnel disputes" inside Spicer City Hall are resolved.

Paul Rajkowski, an attorney from St. Cloud, informed the council he has completed the mediation interviews and employees are "seeking some sort of resolution to the disputes."

Rajkowski recommended the council redefine job descriptions for city staff. He also said a third-party consultant for employee concerns could prevent many in-house issues and minimize the number of employee grievances. Establishing a retreat-like meeting would allow the council and city staff to better acquaint themselves with their specific duties.

Rajkowski conducted interviews with city employees and public officials over the course of the past two months. He was hired by the council in October after some issues within city hall came to light.

Rajkowski said a lack of "clear expectations of job responsibilities" was a major factor that led to the disputes.

"The council needs to make clear what the chain of command is," Rajkowski said.

Rajkowski assured the council that once "trust is re-established and everyone knows what they're doing" the city will get back to "running on all cylinders."

The council decided in September to seek assistance from a mediator after numerous issues came to light, capped by City Administrator Andrea Aukrust and City Clerk LaNae Osmond seeking to file grievances against each other. City Attorney Barry Darval clarified the city hired a mediator "to deal with issues and problems that exist as a whole and for the benefit of the entire staff and council."

Darval said Wednesday that Aukrust notified the city she has an upcoming physician's meeting regarding a medical condition that has kept her from work since late October. She was placed on 60-day unpaid medical leave Oct. 29 by the council.

Darval said in late November that he received a medical update from Aukrust and her condition would not permit her to immediately return to work. He also said he wouldn't comment on Aukrust's condition.

According to previous reports, Aukrust has not been present at a city meeting since Sept. 24.

Darval on Monday said Aukrust indicated she planned to return to work upon approval from her physician. No return date has been set. Darval suggested the city prepare a plan to assist Aukrust as she transitions back into her role at city hall.