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Minnesota city clerk resigns after dispute with reporter

ROOSEVELT, Minn.—A small-town city clerk who swore at a reporter last week during a public meeting said she has resigned.

Reporter Doris Knutson from Baudette's weekly Northern Light Region questioned the Roosevelt City Council during its Oct. 1 meeting when she discovered they'd met without proper public notification.

Knutson reported that clerk Alyce Siats shouted "My (expletive) dad died!" at her when she pressed the legality of the meeting.

Siats said, "I blew my temper, but I did not say my '(expletive) father.' My exact words were 'I'm so (expletive) sick and tired of this (expletive)'."

Knutson said council member Arlyn Stewart then approached the reporter and seemingly towered over her as he berated her. He adjourned the meeting immediately. Siats said she'd already left at that time.

Stewart has not responded to multiple phone calls.

Knutson called the paper's publishers and helped file a report after the meeting. Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust said the investigation is ongoing and charges could be filed against Stewart.

"If she felt threatened that's definitely something to look into. I can't give you a definite answer there, but we're looking into it," he said. "It's sad to have to go there for an alleged assault that took place; that shouldn't be happening during public meetings."

Gust said the investigation will likely be wrapped up by the end of the week. Siats said she has not been contacted by authorities, and Knutson has not been contacted again.

Siats said she put in her resignation three months ago but had given the council until the end of October to find her replacement. After the last meeting, she said she's calling it quits early.

"The council has been harassed by people outside of town for the last year and a half," she said.

Siats said she's been yelled at and told to shut up by those attending meetings.

Knutson began covering the City Council meetings about a year ago after she heard rumblings of dysfunction. She said council members are short-tempered and have screamed at citizens during meetings.

Knutson said the council disregards open meeting laws. According to the League of Minnesota Cities, public government bodies are required by law to post public notice three days prior to meeting or publish the event in a newspaper. Attempts must be made to contact all parties that have requested notification. Knutson said the Northern Light Region requested to be notified.

Knutson said the council was unable to produce financial records for the past eight years. Since Siats' resignation, she said Stewart would be the point of contact for records requests. He has not returned repeated phone calls. Siats also said the state may have records, though the League of Minnesota Cities said records would need to be obtained from Roosevelt because they are not kept at a statewide level.

Siats said she feels the dysfunction is not the result of council actions.

"As far as I'm concerned, we've tried to conduct very proper meetings, and you can't when it's dysfunctional," she said.

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