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Tribune Editorial: City memo leaker endangers council chambers' safety

There appears to be a leaker on the Willmar City Council and we are not talking about a simple leaky pipe in the Willmar council chambers at the Willmar Municipal Utilities building.

This leaker has seriously endangered all individuals — officials, residents and visitors — who attend a Willmar City Council meeting.

Due to safety, security and crowd concerns, Willmar city officials and law enforcement officials have become concerned in recent years about the inadequacies of the current council chambers at the MUC building.

The City Council on Monday decided to move all of its meetings — regular and work sessions — to the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in north Willmar for the foreseeable future until the council chambers' security and safety issues can be resolved.

The primary concerns are the small size of the council chambers — constricting movement within the chambers or in the case of an emergency — and the security control of the many doors in and out of the building.

Those concerns became even more apparent during annual safety and active shooter training by law enforcement.

In a Jan. 9 memo, Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt wrote to City Administrator Ike Holland, "The Willmar City Council Chambers has some significant security challenges."

The police chief's memo then specified specific concerns about crowd control, evacuation challenges, accessibility issue, security concerns and staffing challenges.

He recommended moving the city meetings to the board room at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building as "the fastest and most economical option" to resolve the safety and security issues in the short term. Otherwise, he said the city would need to begin making the necessary security upgrades as soon as possible to the current council chambers.

The city is currently in the process of reviewing available options for a city hall by constructing new or remodeling existing buildings. The City Council has not made a final decision on this proposal. Thus, any investment in the current council chambers would not be wise at this time.

Chief Felt was doing his job in regularly reviewing the safety and security of the council chambers and reporting to City Council and officials. Thank you, sir.

This security memo had been copied to City Attorney Robert Scott, Willmar Police Capt. Mike Anderson, Mayor Marv Calvin and the eight City Council members.

In general, security and safety communications and plans are considered restricted under state law and subject to some disclosure protections.

However, someone apparently leaked this security memo to a member of the public.

Then on Jan. 17, frequent Willmar critic Bob Enos chose to publish the city security memo on Facebook. Now anyone with an ax to grind with the city certainly knows the safety and security weaknesses of the current council chambers. While this city gadfly has a First Amendment right to publish what he wants, it showed extremely poor judgment and total disregard for city residents on his part to endanger the safety of city meetings.

The greater danger lies with the individual who leaked the safety and security memo in the first place. This individual's action to leak the memo is a violation of this person's oath, a failure to discharge faithfully the duties of the office of the city of Willmar.

Councilor Audrey Nelsen said Monday that council members "received confidential emails and it should stay that way." How true!

Most seriously, the leak of the memo publicized the security situation of the council chambers and forced city officials to quickly resolve the security issues.

We know the majority of the City Council members and the city officials involved have significant integrity and would not stoop to such dangerous actions.

This leaker's action is frankly despicable. This individual owes the city of Willmar, the other City Council members, the city administration and staff, and all city residents nothing less than an apology.

This editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune's Editorial Board of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.

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