The St. Francis City Council has publicly censured Council Member LeRoy Schaffer for "harassing and offensive behavior" toward a 20-year-old woman at a community fundraiser in November.
The city ordered an investigation after receiving a letter from the woman, Amber Mengelkoch, alleging that Schaffer had disturbed her by speaking to her about his girlfriend, including details about how they first began having sex.
Mengelkoch said she found it "weird" and was disturbed that a man she barely knew would talk to her about his sex life -- especially at a fundraiser for a youth ambassador program at which half the attendees were minors.
"I'm 20. He's old," she said. "It's a little on the creepy side."
Schaffer, 68, acknowledged having spoken inappropriately but said it was a mistake. "I volunteered too much information. I didn't say anything in a crass or coarse way," he said.
Schaffer said he was offering "fatherly" relationship advice that was intimate but not graphic. He told Mengelkoch about how his girlfriend had asked him to make love to her and how he had then told his girlfriend that he would not do so unless they were exclusive.
"I made [Mengelkoch] uncomfortable, and I didn't pick up on it right away," he said. "Like a lot of dumb older men, I just fell into being too honest."
The incident occurred at a Miss St. Francis Ambassador Program fundraiser. Mengelkoch, a former youth ambassador, is the program's interim coordinator. "We didn't discuss my relationship, so I don't know why he would be giving me relationship advice," she said. It "pretty much came out of left field."
The council's Dec. 17 censure prohibits Schaffer from attending any events associated with the program in his role as a council member, other than gatherings where the entire council participates.
The censure also directs Schaffer to attend sexual harassment training and to "cease from all verbal conduct of a sexual nature while in his capacity as council member."
Schaffer "has a history of discussing his girlfriend and his personal matters with employees at the city," according to the investigative report based on six other interviews with people who are employed at the city or serve on one of the city's public commissions.
According to the report, at one point during Schaffer's conversation with Mengelkoch at the fundraiser, he told her that she "could get other women with 'pretty faces' to raise a lot of money" by making picnic baskets and auctioning picnics with the women to men. Mengelkoch said she found that suggestion "creepy" as well.
Mayor Randy Dressen, who received a letter in which the complaint was first aired, said the city had a responsibility to make the censure public.
"With elected officials, there's limited disciplinary action that can be taken," he said. "... And it was the council's opinion that private censure would not identify the problem. We felt that since the allegation was made by people in the private sector, that they had a right to know that disciplinary action had been taken."
Schaffer said he made a mistake and left himself vulnerable to what he described as a political attack because he had opposed a property tax increase earlier this year.
Dressen differed. "Absolutely not," he said. "After reading that letter, this is something that the city will not tolerate. We have zero tolerance when it comes to any kind of harassment. If this had been an employee, in all likelihood they would have been terminated."
Eric M. Hanson • 612-673-7517