The longtime director of one of Minnesota's largest community development agencies was fired following accusations of unwanted sexual advances toward staff, gender discrimination, retaliation and other offenses.
The Dakota County Board fired Mark Ulfers, who was the head of the county's Community Development Agency (CDA), on Tuesday, more than two months after giving him notice.
A letter from the County Board, which is also the CDA board, outlined five specific reasons for the termination:
• Unwanted sexual and romantic advances toward CDA staff.
• Treating CDA staff differently based on gender.
• Making inappropriate gender and age-based comments.
• Creating a hostile work environment.
• Retaliating against CDA staff for participating in past and present workplace investigations about Ulfers.
"It is alleged that you have consciously and voluntarily engaged in conduct that shows a lack of even slight care and exhibits reckless disregard of consequences," the March 3 letter states.
It also says Ulfers "misrepresented" things. Most recently, he misrepresented the circumstances around an employee's decision to leave the CDA, according to the letter, which was made public Wednesday.
"I have not done anything inappropriate or unlawful," Ulfers said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, I have been caught up in politics as well as the unfounded allegations of disgruntled former employees, some of which go back years and years, and for which no improper conduct was found at that time."
Ulfers, 58, worked at the CDA since 1977 and was its executive director for nearly three decades. His salary was $161,250 at the time he was fired.
Ulfers said he had planned to resign. He said he told the chairman of the CDA board his plan and then took a week of medical leave in March, "to make sure I was thinking clearly."
During that week, the CDA board held a special meeting and decided to tell Ulfers he would be fired for cause.
Ulfers said firing him for cause means the county does not have to pay him severance.
"Oh, I have a way to keep him from getting severance. We'll fire him for cause and come up with a report that has a bunch of outrageous allegations," Ulfers said.
He said he has retained legal counsel and they are coming up with a "list of my options on how to go forward."
"I look forward to clearing my good name," Ulfers said.
Ulfers was a recognized figure in the affordable housing field and served as a board member of various national and state housing agencies.
As head of the CDA, he oversaw about 30 programs and an operating budget of $54 million.
Kari Gill, the deputy executive director, has been filling in as acting director since the board voted on March 3 to notify Ulfers he would be fired, for cause, in 60 days.
The 60-day notification was part of Ulfers' contract. But as his last day approached, the board reconvened and decided to keep him on the payroll until Tuesday.
Ulfers was not working for the agency or coming to the office during that time, CDA spokeswoman Sara Swenson said.
Until Wednesday, county officials had not released any details about the reason for Ulfers' termination, saying only that there had been "employee complaints."