Scott Duddeck, the embattled city manager of North St. Paul, resigned Tuesday just days after a council member called for an investigation into city finances following Duddeck's admission that the city was billed $2,400 for his family's personal expenses.
Duddeck did not attend the regularly scheduled council meeting on Tuesday evening, where a handful of his supporters went to the podium to praise him as a "gift to the community," a "super guy" and "Mr. North St. Paul."
Duddeck, a lifelong resident of North St. Paul, was hired as city manager in 2019 and by then had already worked for the city for more than three decades in several roles, including public works director and fire chief.
In his resignation letter to the city, Duddeck wrote that his voluntary departure was conditioned on the City Council's recognition that he is "eligible to receive all applicable employment benefits including but not limited to banked sick time and vacation time."
The council voted to accept the resignation in a voice vote, but members have been divided over Duddeck's future with the city. Council members Scott Thorsen and Candy Petersen demanded an outside forensic audit of the city's finances.
But Mayor Terry Furlong, a Duddeck supporter, choked back tears as he read the city manager's departing letter into the record.
"I have been talking to Scott the last few weeks. I believe personally he is broken," Furlong said. "I have never seen anybody serve a community so much. … He has confided in me that family is more important to him right now."
Furlong did not publicly address the billing and credit card issues that first raised the questions about Duddeck.
Last week, Thorsen asked the state auditor to investigate North St. Paul's finances after learning that nearly 200 credit card receipts — most of them Duddeck's — were missing, and that $2,400 in the city manager's personal expenses had been billed to the city.
Thorsen also asked the council to hire an outside accounting firm to conduct an investigation for the Ramsey County suburb of 12,000.
"My position hasn't changed," Thorsen said after the meeting. "We need to do an outside investigation, either through the state or an independent firm."
Thorsen, an accountant, said information from city staffers and the city's audit report in May first caught his attention. According to those sources, staffers failed to properly file receipts for 191 of 387 charges made on city-issued credit cards last year in time for the city's annual audit — a "significant deficiency," according to auditors, that flouts both state statute and the city's own policy.
Duddeck himself had failed to provide receipts for 154 of the 169 charges on his city-issued credit card.
In an interview last week, Duddeck admitted there were problems, including the missing receipts and two contractors who he said had erroneously billed the city for services and supplies for his sister-in-law's home renovation.
"It should have never happened. I acknowledge that openly and honestly. I want this to be corrected and to move on," Duddeck told the Star Tribune.
"North St. Paul is not a job to me. It's my life. I am committed to the city and would do anything for this city."
Contractors hired by Duddeck charged $2,200 in paint and supplies to the city's Sherwin-Williams account last November. A portable toilet rental totaling $170 for Duddeck's personal property was also billed to the city.
City staffers identified the charges as personal in nature and refused to pay them for months, according to e-mails obtained by the Star Tribune.
Duddeck said he had personally paid the $2,400 owed, and stressed that no money had left city coffers.
Before the vote on Tuesday, former City Council Member and Duddeck supporter Tom Sonnek said city leaders had created the conditions that led to Duddeck's downfall.
Sonnek said the council had laid off several city workers during the pandemic to keep the property tax levy flat and that Duddeck, already stretched thin with a series of development projects, ended up absorbing extra work.
"He makes some policy mistakes — mistakes that may have been prevented if he had administrative help," Sonnek said, during the meeting's public comment portion.
Sonnek said the council should have worked with Duddeck on clarifying performance expectations, building "better systems" and hiring an assistant for him.
City Attorney Soren Mattick said the City Council had evaluated Duddeck's performance in two closed-door sessions and voiced concerns about the city's audit and compliance with the city's spending policy.
Initially the council had discussed a path forward "which included Scott remaining as the city manager," Mattick said. "There was a desire to work with Scott on that."
He said that media coverage and social media buzz around the city's finances had prompted Duddeck to resign.
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037