Council member’s wife criticizes recall group’s ‘lies, false accusations’

WILLMAR -- Jeanine Christianson has criticized what she said are lies, false accusations and mean-spirited intentions by the Recall Ron Committee in the committee's attempt to remove her husband and Ward 2 City Council member Ron Christianson fro...

WILLMAR - Jeanine Christianson has criticized what she said are lies, false accusations and mean-spirited intentions by the Recall Ron Committee in the committee’s attempt to remove her husband and Ward 2 City Council member Ron Christianson from office.

Mrs. Christianson spoke during the council’s open forum Monday night. She accused the West Central Tribune of working with and supporting the recall committee. She also said committee members have abused the open forum to campaign for their cause and to ask for signatures on recall petitions and donations to their committee. On the morning of her husband’s mother’s funeral, Mrs. Christianson said they received a call that the committee had posted a video clip along with the name Christianson accusing her husband of calling one of their committee members an idiot and sharing it on social media. She was referring to a comment from an as yet unidentified council member that was picked up on audio during a joint meeting of the council and the council’s Labor Relations Committee May 13.
“Even though Ron didn’t say this, they continued to accuse him of this action without any facts to prove that this is true,’’ Mrs. Christianson said.
Due to a call to their campaign manager who

said he wasn’t aware of the video, they removed it from their website, Mrs. Christianson said. She also said a committee member wrote an “editorial’’ saying the recall is not personal and the committee is just following the recall process.
“I beg to differ,’’ Mrs. Christianson said. “It is personal, constantly attacking with lies, false accusations and mean-spirited intentions. Have any of you been elected to public office? It is a thankless job: many meetings, sometime long hours and minimal pay.’’
Mrs. Christianson said she was very disappointed with the recall group, “some of whom I consider to be my friends who are now dividing this city through their actions. Ron is a dedicated public servant. Give him some credit for what he has done for this city.’’
Support for Christianson was also stated in a letter written by Ward 2 resident Arlen Christianson and read by Interim City Administrator Kevin Halliday at the request of Mayor Marv Calvin. Calvin said Christianson, a long-time resident and no relation to Ron Christianson, was unable to attend the council meeting. The letter writer said he was opposed to the recall effort and hopes that it fails. Christianson wrote that the city should work together and he felt the best person was in office now.
The possibility of the council limiting public participation in the 15-year-old open forum section of the council agenda prompted challenges from two speakers.
Former council member Steve Gardner said last week’s Labor Relations Committee discussion of possibly limiting citizens’ ability to address the council “appears to me (that) some members want to bring forward a Draconian proposal without discussing with the balance of the council.’’
Gardner said he thought a council member would make a motion Monday night to severely limit public comment.
No such action was taken, however.
The Labor Committee’s discussion of open forum protocol was reported later in the council meeting. But no action was taken either by the committee last week or the council Monday night in anticipation of further discussion.
As a former council member, Gardner said he received numerous negative comments including death threats during the Westwind issue.
“I ask the mayor and council members: Where was your concern then?’’ Gardner asked.
He repeated the question, citing Bob Enos and Bob Skor for what Gardner said was their use of the bully pulpit for their council and mayoral campaigns in the November 2014 general election.
“You already have the rules in place you need to have a fair and effective open forum,’’ Gardner said, and he said council members should resign if they can’t accept criticism and don’t like hearing opinions other than their own.
Also, Gardner said he has repeatedly requested an apology from the unidentified council member for the tasteless comment directed at him. However, Gardner said he will not ask again but will consult with legal counsel going forward.
Also speaking against further restrictions on the open forum and using the forum as a free campaign platform was Betty Knutson.
“Limiting the number of times a person can speak is outrageous. As citizens we need to be heard,’’ she said. “The citizens of Willmar won’t be silenced if you don’t like was is being said.’’

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