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Willmar (Minn.) Utilities Commission extends Gomm's leave another 30 days (video)



-- The paid administrative leave for Municipal Utilities General Manager Bruce Gomm was extended another 30 days by the Utilities Commission on Friday while commissioners await an investigative report on possible misconduct by Gomm.

The special meeting had been called for the seven-member commission to review and act on recommendations from the attorney conducting the investigation, but no report was presented.

Gomm was placed on 30-day paid administrative leave on Dec. 12, the same day when a complaint against him was brought to the commission.

Gomm's leave was extended 30 days on Jan. 5 and the commissioners voted 6-1 Friday morning to extend the leave by another 30 days because the report was not ready.

The investigation began after the commission affirmed on Dec. 27 the recommendation of the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust to use the Quinlivan law firm of St. Cloud to do the investigation. The investigation was anticipated to be completed by the end of January.

Commission President Dave Baker asked Friday if a report was ready to be presented, and interim co-manager Larry Heinen said no.

Baker said the commission had anticipated the report might not be ready, and Commissioner Doug Lindblad offered a motion to extend Gomm's leave. Commissioner Matt Schrupp seconded the motion.

Commissioner Steve Salzer asked Heinen if there is any indication of when the report would be completed.

"I've got to believe they're pretty much wrapping up all of the interviews that they're doing,'' said Heinen. He said City Attorney Rich Ronning is the contact person and Heinen said Ronning had not told him.

Commissioner Carol Laumer said not having the report completed puts the commission at a disadvantage, but she said waiting would be fair to everybody.

Baker and Schrupp agreed the commissioners needed the report to make a decision. "I don't see we're able to move forward with anything without having the report in hand,'' said Schrupp.

Commissioner Dan Holtz hoped to have a timeline.

Heinen said the investigator had a trial that took some time out, but Heinen said he would call and have an estimate for the commission at its regular meeting on Monday.

"It's safe to say we're all disappointed that it's not here yet,'' said Baker. "We expected it to be done by now; however, the process has to be done properly and carefully so it's unfortunate for both utilities and for Mr. Gomm that we're all waiting this long.''

Gomm and a few of his supporters attended the meeting Friday and Gomm rose to say he wanted to have a discussion.

Baker said he was advised by Ronning to not take any public opinion.

Gomm said he is the general manager and not a member of the public, "and this matter is regarding me. So I believe I have the right to be heard in a discussion on this motion.''

Baker brought the discussion back to the table. Voting to extend Gomm's leave were Baker, Lindblad, Schrupp, Laumer, Holtz and Steve Salzer. Voting no was Jerry Gesch.

After the meeting adjourned, Gomm told the Tribune that his attorney had requested to Ronning early in the week that Gomm be allowed to address the commission. Gomm said Ronning never replied. Gomm said there should be some sort of communication to make sure that the utility is being led properly.

"I was going to tell the commission that I have a great deal of concern. There's a lot of critical issues, regulatory issues, power supply contracts, that we were in a critical stage on. I was handling the majority of the negotiations directly, and there's been no follow-up with me to know where those are at and that there has not been any attempt at all by the utility to ask me or to get that information from me and that I'm very concerned another 30-day extension on this will further endanger the utility,'' Gomm said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150