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Lakeville to pay legal fees, avoid lawsuit

  • October 25, 2011 - 11:25 AM

Lakeville will pay $1,225 in legal fees for an employee the mayor accused of lying -- a statement the City Council later formally retracted.

Last month, Mayor Mark Bellows publicly accused senior center coordinator Linda Walter of lying to him. The claim came while was explaining why he voted against moving forward on a remodeled senior center.

Walter, a 15-year employee, hired an attorney and considered a defamation lawsuit.

After a closed meeting, the City Council on Oct. 3 issued a statement saying Walter hadn't lied and had performed her job well. It added: "The mayor's reference to a lie at the Sept. 19 council meeting was intended to reflect a perception in the community that he is opposed to the senior center."

Walter had hoped to hear an apology from the city or Bellows. Eventually, she decided "there is no point in having the city pay for the mayor's wrongful statement" through a lawsuit, her attorney, Chris Heinze, said.

Walter agreed to forgo any slander lawsuit when the city agreed to pay her attorney fees, said City Attorney Roger Knutson.

"She just wanted to clear her name and that has been accomplished, for the most part," Heinze said.

BURNSVILLE

Businesswoman wins achievement award

A Burnsville businesswoman will receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Women Business Owners' Minnesota chapter (NAWBO-MN) next week.

Robin Kocina, co-owner and CEO of Kocina Branding & Marketing Cos., is being recognized for her leadership, involvement in the community, volunteerism and business acumen.

"Robin is, first and foremost, an outstanding role model for how to run a successful business," said Jennifer Brigham, the chief executive officer of Brigham Group Staffing, who nominated Kocina for the award. "She has shaped her company's inspiring corporate culture, which is based on identifying and acknowledging every staff member's personal strengths."

Kocina Branding & Marketing has been in business for 23 years. Kocina will receive the award on Thursday at NAWBO's "Achieve Awards" ceremony at the Graves Hotel in Minneapolis.

LILYDALE

New stoplights on Hwy. 13 go live

New traffic signals on Hwy. 13 in Lilydale at the exit ramps from Interstate 35E went into operation this week.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation rebuilt the intersection this summer, installing two sets of signals and 100 feet of sidewalk at a cost of $288,000.

Traffic models showed that by 2015, cars exiting the freeway at Hwy. 13 would stack back down the ramp toward I-35E during afternoon peak hours with the potential to slow freeway traffic and cause accidents -- unless the four-way stop signs at the top of the ramp were removed, said David Sheen, MnDOT traffic support area manager for the south area.

The department replaces stop signs with signals at freeway intersections once or twice a year, he said.

The new sidewalk will benefit a senior housing development that is being built in Lilydale near the intersection, he said.

NORTHERN DAKOTA COUNTY

What's that smoke?

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will conduct prescribed burns from October to mid-December along Interstate 494 west of Hardman Avenue near South St. Paul, Newport, Inver Grove Heights and West St. Paul.

The burns will be set in wetlands to control weeds, improve the health of the wetland and promote growth of native prairie vegetation, MnDOT said.

Traffic should not be affected, but MnDOT urged motorists to slow down and drive with caution if smoke drifts near the highway.

JIM ADAMS, LAURIE BLAKE AND DYLAN BELDEN

HASTINGS

NHL players donate gear to local kids

The Hastings Hockey Boosters have announced a donation of 25 new sets of hockey equipment from the National Hockey League Players' Association's "Goals & Dreams" fund. The donation will help provide mite hockey equipment to families who cannot afford it.

New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan, who grew up in Hastings, played a big role in the donation to the community, according to the boosters.

"The Hastings Hockey Boosters gave me the opportunity to chase my dream of reaching the NHL, and hopefully this new equipment from the NHLPA will give many more kids here the chance to do the same," Stepan said.

Over the past 11 years, NHL players have donated more than $20 million to fund and assist grass-roots hockey programs around the world.

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