Linwood Cemetery records go under microscope

Process discussed after undocumented grave placed in reserved lot

 

Alice Pickering
Linwood Reporter

The Linwood Town Board on June 11 and June 25 extensively discussed relocating a grave, first placed in another family’s lot, at Linwood Cemetery.

Residents who have lived in Linwood may have a lot in the township cemetery at no cost.

The cemetery is located on the east side of Typo Creek Drive Northeast, south of the Sunrise River. Current committee members are Chairperson Cindy Gruett, Pat Crawford, Sandy Lathrop, Deb Parker and Lois Rustad. Supervisor Carol Searing is Town Board’s liaison to the committee.

Updating records

Mapping of the cemetery began in 2007. Committee members began matching memorial stones with written records of the original cemetery books. Gruett said committee members systematically walked through the three sections of the cemetery – original, north and east – four or five times.

Gruett contacted families and family members who had reserved lots in the cemetery, and about 200 lots were turned back to the township.

Within cemetery records, lots that are vacant and available to residents are identified.

Gruett said the group correctly recorded the information into one up-to-date master list of the cemetery records. Lathrop entered all the information, including any special annotations, into a computer file. One list was organized by grave site number (like the original records), the second by the three cemetery sections and the third alphabetically. A fourth section is an inventory of all unassigned lots.

As of Jan. 1, 2010, the information was fully up to date and recorded in a password-protected computer file. At a Town Board meeting in April 2011, Town Clerk Judy Hanna and Ray Broadbent, cemetery sexton, were each given a print copy. The Cemetery Committee retained a copy. In addition, Gruett said that Lathrop had a print copy and the computer file. The original cemetery records were to be given to the Anoka County Historical Society.

At the Town Board meeting on June 26, 2012, Hanna said that she had not received the software and the computer disc to continue the record keeping. At that time, Broadbent and Hanna were still recording information in the updated book copy or photocopies of the originals.

Gruett said residents fill out an application for a grave site. It is sent to the funeral home serving the family, then returned to the township. Hanna and Broadbent are to look in the computerized list, checking first to see if the family has a reserved lot. If not, one is assigned. This is supposed to be recorded in the clerk’s and sexton’s record books.

Gruett said a copy of the application is supposed to be placed in the Cemetery Committee mailbox in the town hall. Then the information about the individual and assigned lot is entered into the Cemetery Committee’s records.

Gruett explained that the Cemetery Committee does not get these records in a timely manner. The committee meets twice a year. At the April 2013 meeting, the group received about seven burial records from 2012 and the beginning of 2013.

Grave mistake

In preparation for Memorial Day this year, Gruett made a routine walk through the cemetery, placing flags on the graves of veterans and firemen. She said she noticed a memorial stone in the north section that was not recorded on any of the maps or other records. Moreover, the particular lot is reserved for another family.

The date on the stone was for February 2010, but it had been placed sometime this May. She did not remember a burial in the lot in 2010. There were no stakes, which are usually present when a monument is placed.

Gruett approached Hanna about the missing paperwork. She wanted to know if there was a mistake. According to Gruett, Hanna said she did not know anything about the site but that the stone came to the town hall and it was the sexton’s responsibility.

At the time it was not clear if the marker had been placed correctly. If correctly marked, why did the Cemetery Committee not have a record of the lot being assigned?

Attorney Mike Haag, Gruett and Searing checked the Cemetery Committee records. Haag brought information about the lot to the town board June 11. Haag suggested the township apologize to the spouse of the deceased and offer to move the remains to a vacant lot at the township’s expense. By consensus, supervisors agreed this seemed a reasonable solution. With the consensus, Haag did not believe a motion was necessary.

After the meeting Gruett approached Hanna about what she planned to do and the necessity of having the grave moved as soon as possible. Hanna did not want to participate in a solution. Haag witnessed the discussion.

At the meeting June 25, discussion about the matter continued. Gruett did not attend the meeting. Searing had contacted Broadbent and learned that a mistake had been made about the grave. The plan continues to be to offer to the spouse to move remains and marker to another plot, at the township’s expense.

Hanna contacted the Minnesota Association of Cemeteries and learned that children must sign a release for the remains to be moved. In this particular case, the former spouse has no authority to sign the release, even if responsible for making funeral arrangements.

In a formal motion, the board agreed unanimously to take action to move the remains, subject to the children’s signed release.

Going forward

Former Supervisor Howard Holm helped create the Cemetery Committee. In December 2009 the board voted to use the software to maintain cemetery records.

“We’re not using the software and the new books,” Searing said last month. “I’d like to see us use it.”

Supervisor Mike Halliday agreed. Hanna said some of the records have been updated.

Searing asked that all of the cemetery record be updated and made a motion to that effect, which died for lack of a second. Hanna eventually agreed to accept help from Lathrop to update cemetery information.  The intent is that she does the updates herself, with guidance.

Hanna was asked when she intended to do the work.

“When my term is up or I resign,” Hanna said.

Hanna was re-elected to a four-year term in November 2012.

Minnesota State Statute 367.11 (Sec. 2) states the clerk “is to have custody of the records, books and papers of the town and file and safely keep all papers required by law to be filed in the clerk’s office.”

  • Steve Anderson

    All of Linwood Township’s records (and record keeping) should be put under the microscope – if proper records (and accountability) even exist. Every dollar tax spent, and every government action is supposed to be documented and accounted for through accurate records.

    No records, lax record keeping, and inaccurate records equals NO RELIABLE PAPER TRAIL. NO RELIABLE PAPER TRAIL equals justification for a decisions to be based on “because I said so” government and not on due diligence, records analysis, public consideration, or even common sense .

    The town clerks apparent inexcusable and irresponsible response to the cemetery issue along with some town board supervisors not responding responsibly (to the clerks response) rivals the 228th Lane road project last year. Where it was discovered that Linwood’s Road and Bridge Committee Chairman was awarded a contract for the 228th Lane road construction. The project was started using a “verbal” contract between the committee chairman and the town board supervisors and did not include a prepared road plan (blue print). After the project kept running into problems and reached the point where citizens became frustrated and angered the town board in effect said “OPPS” and hired another company to finish the project.

  • Linda Martin

    This sounds to me like you have a clerk who obviously is not doing her job. And by the comment she made that ” she will do it when my term is up or when I resign”, clearly states that she doesn’t intend to do her job! This is an elected person of your township. If she is not willing to that job what else isn’t getting done? Who’s minding the store in Linwood?

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