For the second time in five months, a west metro City Council is asking its mayor to resign, stripping him of his city salary and almost all his duties.
In the unprecedented censure approved Monday, Maple Plain’s four City Council members unanimously approved eliminating Mayor Roger Hackbarth’s $350 monthly pay and restricting him from serving on any commissions, chairing meetings and attending special meetings where confidential information is shared.
“We wanted to take deeper measures to show … that we’re serious. He can’t go on like he does,” acting Mayor Jerry Young said Tuesday. “No city has done this before.”
In the censure, the City Council members said Hackbarth, 71, has continued to “behave unprofessionally, with angry outbursts toward council members and staff,” and displays “demeaning and degrading” behavior toward city staff in Maple Plain, a suburb 20 miles west of Minneapolis.
“He’s not effectively leading the city,” Council Member Justin McCoy said Tuesday.
The council also wrote that residents and business owners complained about Hackbarth’s “abusive and negative behavior” and he hasn’t adhered to rules the council put in a censure last March — the city’s first censure. In it, they limited him from serving on most committees, boards, commissions or associations and prohibited him from contact with a city employee without another employee present. They cited his vulgarity, “extreme anger” and said he created an “unsafe and unfriendly” atmosphere after a female employee’s complaint that he behaved inappropriately, demanding hugs and claiming he loved her.
An outside investigator determined that Hackbarth acted inappropriately toward the employee. However, no civil or criminal charges were filed.
Hackbarth didn’t attend Monday’s meeting and didn’t return messages Tuesday from the Star Tribune. But this year, he told a local newspaper, the Pioneer, that a small group has been determined to “get rid of” him since he was elected.
In 2012, he won the mayoral election by 67 votes, ousting an incumbent after serving as a council member for six years in Maple Plain (pop. 1,800). No other formal complaints have been filed and he has a clean criminal record, according to public records. His four-year term ends in 2016. The city says he makes $350 each month and $25 for additional meetings.
In nearby Maple Grove, the City Council approved a censure earlier this year of Council Member LeAnn Sargent, after she was sentenced on a gross misdemeanor for financially exploiting her dying father.
A censure isn’t a legal charge, but it shows public disapproval. Most Minnesota cities don’t have the authority to recall or otherwise remove an elected official; they can only be disqualified from office if they’re convicted of a felony.