City investigation into Bayport administrator ends

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 9, 2013 - 4:31 PM

City declines to pursue misconduct probe as Mitch Berg’s last day approached.

Furiously scribbling on a notepad, suspended City Administrator Mitch Berg sat before four members of the Bayport City Council as they reviewed allegations that he had created a hostile working environment at City Hall.

Near him, Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Nodes stood at a podium, naming what she described as violations of the city’s conduct policy.

Berg had told city staff that council members couldn’t make decisions, Nodes said. Because of statements he made, she said, people who worked for him were unclear who was in charge of city policy and wondered whether he cared about his job as city administrator.

“Disappointing behavior for someone in this role,” replied Mayor Susan St. Ores.

Considering that Berg’s resignation would take place in two days, Nodes said, she recommended that the City Council close the investigation without further disciplinary action.

Council members voted accordingly and said little more. Berg left the room without pleading his case.

Afterward, Berg said city officials never gave him a clear explanation for his suspension and didn’t reveal who made the allegations against him. He said he enjoyed working with residents of Bayport, a city of about 3,500 residents, for the last three years.

“I’m really as frustrated as anybody, but I understand it’s kind of the nature of politics in the community,” he said. “I feel this is the best staff I ever worked with. They were very professional. With the council, I would leave that to your imagination.”

Berg became administrator in Bayport in October 2009 after working in similar positions in Afton and Mahnomen, Minn., and in North Hudson, Wis. In Bayport, he supervised all city departments, including administration, building, finance, planning and zoning, public works, police and fire.

Berg hasn’t been replaced. Neither has Mark Ostertag, the fifth City Council member, who died unexpectedly at his home on Dec. 22. The City Council tentatively will meet this month to appoint Ostertag’s replacement effective April 1, said Sara Taylor, the city’s interim administrator.

Ostertag’s death, Berg said, led him to reconsider his original resignation, issued Dec. 20, to leave his job March 2. “An outpouring of residents had approached me to stay,” he said.

On Jan. 17, he tried to rescind his resignation. “However, I was further shocked to find out, during that week, the council had met on Jan. 14, of which I was not asked to attend, and you called for me to leave on Jan. 17,” he said in a statement.

He then indicated that March 2 would be his last day, as originally planned.

The day of the special meeting to consider Berg’s fate was only two days away from his announced departure, which figured into Nodes’ recommendation that the City Council take no further action.

Berg said that he’s investigating the city, and “if warranted,” he will release more details to the public.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037

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