Willmar mayor apologizes on behalf of city council for 'idiot' comment

WILLMAR -- Mayor Marv Calvin said Monday night that he has apologized to Steve Gardner on behalf of the mayor's office for the denigrating comment made by an unidentified Willmar City Council member toward Gardner at the May 13 Labor Relations Co...

Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin apologized to Steve Gardner on behalf of the city council after one member said, "Oh great…listen to this idiot,” in regard to Gardner. The councilmember who made the comment, which was recorded during a May 13 Labor Relations Committee meeting, has not come forward. (TRIBUNE/File)

WILLMAR - Mayor Marv Calvin said Monday night that he has apologized to Steve Gardner on behalf of the mayor’s office for the denigrating comment made by an unidentified Willmar City Council member toward Gardner at the May 13 Labor Relations Committee meeting.
In a brief interview after the 90-minute council meeting, Calvin said that prior to the meeting he spoke to Gardner in the hallway at the Municipal Utilities auditorium and offered an apology on behalf of the mayor’s office.
“I think that in a position of leadership it’s always best to do the right thing and so I did apologize for the comment that was made on behalf of myself,’’ Calvin said.
The mayor said he did not make any accusations, did not say who made the comment, and said he is not aware of who made the comment.
Calvin said that when this was brought to his attention last Thursday evening, he met with Interim City Administrator Kevin Halliday and they watched the video and listened to the tape of the meeting, “and we are not able to without doubt say who the person was that made the comment.’’
“So at this point, I felt it was the right thing for the mayor to do is to apology because being in a position of leadership representing the entire city, I felt it was my responsibility to do that,’’ Calvin said.
The council member who made the comment, which was heard on a recording of the meeting, did not identify himself, since the voice was not from Committee Chair Steve Ahmann or council member Audrey Nelsen.
One of the 14 persons who spoke during the open forum portion of the council agenda was Warren Erickson, who attended the Labor Committee meeting. He praised committee members for their civility and in listening to citizens and changing their minds in deciding on the process to hire a new city administrator.
However, Erickson said he learned about the comment and thought, “Here we go again as a community.’’ He said the council member who made the comment should have the professional decency to stand up and apologize.
Also, he asked all council members to consider not seeking reelection when their terms expire to provide an opportunity for new blood to serve.
Jon Marchand, a Brooten City Council member and firefighter, said the public was not treated with respect and he also said the unidentified council member should apologize.
Prior to the council meeting, Gardner issued a press statement criticizing the unidentified council member’s comment.
“As the member of the public who spoke, I can’t say that I am surprised that a member of the Council would say such a thing. I am not surprised that the council member responsible for the comment has yet to take responsibility, nor do I anticipate any type of apology. It matters not one bit to me what individual members of the council think of me or my opinions,’’ Gardner said.
“What does matter to me is that any member of the public is ever treated with such disdain and disrespect by a sitting council member,’’ he wrote.
“Yet today, disdain and disrespect is the norm from some members of the Willmar City Council. Any fair and sustained viewing of council and committee meetings of the past several years will yield many such examples,’’ he wrote.
“It has become clear that these members of the council only respect those who agree with them or who acquiesce to their radical demands and bullying tactics.’’
“If council members cannot find it in themselves to show common courtesy to any and all members of the public, then they have truly lost their way,’’ Gardner said. “They should do themselves and the citizens of this great city a favor and resign their seat on the council, in the hopes that their replacement will bring a mature, courteous and positive attitude toward public service and the public at large.’’
Gardner wrote that his campaign last fall for the council was his last as a candidate, just in case anyone is inclined to believe that he’s aspiring to that office.
“I’m making this public comment to call out the obnoxious behavior exhibited by certain council members, and demand that it stop. Our citizens and our city deserve far better,’’ he said.
Audio and video of the Labor Committee meeting is provided to the public on the city’s website. This video shows Ahmann asking if any citizens wished to address the committee on any matters before it. Ahmann is shown acknowledging a member of the public, and the audio clearly picks up the comment:
“Oh great…listen to this idiot.”


Unknown Willmar council member makes 'idiot' insult


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