Linwood employee resigns after airing concerns

Haapoja’s sudden move came at July 9 meeting of Personnel Committee

 

Alice Pickering
Linwood Reporter

A well-liked Linwood Township employee resigned last week after raising concerns about management and procedures at town hall.

After a contentious discussion on July 9, the Linwood Town Board accepted the resignation of accountant and secretary Janet Haapoja effective July 23.

Haapoja last year was selected from a pool of 34 applicants to replace retiring Pam Palmer. Her first day of work was Dec. 11, 2012. Her probationary period was to end March 31. However, supervisors were enthusiastic about her work and unanimously approved changing her probationary status to a permanent one on Feb. 22.

Many in attendance last week were surprised and upset by the announcement. Haapoja was described as an asset to Linwood, intelligent and knowledgeable, and someone worth working to keep.

Many asked for reasons for her resignation. Attorney Mike Haag and supervisors Mike Halliday and Phil Osterhus citing confidentiality rules and said the reasons were personal in nature.

Contacted after the meeting, Haapoja said she came to the township position with an accounting degree and more than 20 years experience in office management. Currently she is in the process of completing a bachelor’s degree in human resources. She accepted the position at Linwood “hoping to make a difference.”

Her take on the decision: “I attended the Personnel Committee meeting with Mike Haag, Philip Osterhus and Mike Halliday on July 9, 2013, prior to the town hall meeting, to express my concerns regarding the office management and accounting procedures in the town hall. At the conclusion of the meeting, I submitted my resignation and the committee chose to classify it as ‘personal’ reasons at the town hall meeting.”

The vote to accept the resignation was 4-1. Carol Searing voted against acceptance.

Truck arrives

The Linwood Fire Department has its new truck. Truck committee members traveled to the Pierce factory in Eau Claire, Wis., Monday, July 8, for a final check and found the truck ready to go.

Linwood Fire Department’s new engine pulls up to the station last week. (Photo submitted)

Linwood Fire Department’s new engine pulls up to the station last week. (Photo submitted)

About half the Linwood firefighters, their families and several supervisors gathered that night to welcome the new truck at the fire station. The new engine already has its label, Engine 1, emblazoned across the back. Volunteers participated in a long-standing firefighter tradition by pushing the truck into its assigned parking spot.

In January, the board gave final approval for the purchase of the Pierce Saber Pumper for $450,000. The down payment was $195,000. Terms of the five-year lease plan have interest at 2.9 percent. The Fire Capital fund covers the cost of the annual payment.

Dog attacks

Two residents attended the board meeting July 9 to alert supervisors about the behavior of two dangerous dogs in Linwood. Jason Cramer and Dan Darwitz have both filed police reports about separate incidents involving the dogs within the past two months.

Darwitz was riding his motorcycle in May when he was attacked and bitten in the foot by the dog he called Gunner. He returned in a car to seek proof the dog had its rabies vaccination.

Cramer was attacked in mid-June, bitten by Gunner in the right hand, then a second dog, Shooter, in the left hand. Both are large Lab-mix dogs weighing about 90 pounds each, according to Cramer. In his letter requesting to be placed on the agenda, he detailed the circumstances of his attack, emergency room visit and doctor’s recommendations.

The resident at 22954 W. Martin Lake Drive claims to own at least one of the dogs, but both dogs are kenneled at 22934 W. Martin Lake Drive, one lot south. Ownership of the dogs likely will have to be resolved.

In response to the attacks, Haag recommended separate, back-to-back public hearings. This will likely be on Aug. 13.

Haag intends to start proceedings against the more aggressive of the two dogs, which involves drafting a resolution. Supervisors voted unanimously to move ahead with the legal process.

Policing contract

The board unanimously approved renewal of the policing contract with Anoka County. Cmdr. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office summarized costs. The personnel cost, in the amount of $170,552, covers wages and benefits for the patrol officer(s). Squad cars are replaced every three years; cost here is $34,571. Finally, there are administrative costs associated with the assignment: human resources, clerical, investigation, etc.

Total cost for the police contract in 2014 is $222,178. Police State Aid in the amount of $9,912 will reduce the cost to the township for 2014 to $212,266.

Other business

In other business, Haag reported on his preliminary work about regulation of adult entertainment. He has consulted with a professional colleague in Alexandria Township, which has such an ordinance. While such establishments cannot be prohibited, they can be restricted to special zoning districts. The board unanimously approved his contact with the consultant to help draft an ordinance regulating adult entertainment for the township.

Supervisors supported Carol Searing’s choice of training on Board of Appeals and Equalization. The class is to be held in North Branch in September. The Chisago County course is the same as that presented by the Minnesota Association of Townships.

Millerbernd reported some new attractions for Linwood Family Fun Day, including a magician and a mechanical bull. The event is always the first Saturday after Labor Day. This year it falls on Sept. 7. A garage sale at the Linwood Senior Center July 26-28 will raise funds for the event.

Laura Hermann reported that the Garden Club’s trip to the Minnesota Arboretum is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 22. Contact the town hall at 651-462-2812 for more information.

  • Steve Anderson

    Every week there seems to be another Linwood Township blunder or controversy exposed.

    With the very sad and unfortunate resignation of Janet Haapoja – a well regarded, well liked, experienced, accounting professional and valuable employee – yet another Linwood Township “RED FLAG” has been exposed. And, when Linwood Township officials try to hide the truth from the people citing the reasons for the resignation as confidential and personal in nature, it has all the markings of a cover-up. The concerns Ms Haapoja had with the management and accounting practices of the township must have been very serious in nature and contrary to moral ethics and professional standards.

    The apparent refusal by some elected officials to take Ms. Haapoja’s concerns seriously and to NOT address the issues, caused an honest, upright, outstanding employee to resign. Resulting in a great loss to the citizens of Linwood. Such a serious and drastic decision as Ms.Haapoja made indicates her outstanding moral character and high regard for ethics and professionalism. Her heroic resignation indicates that there are some very serious issues regarding the management, accounting practices, and possibly ethics and moral character of some elected officials and personnel that need to be exposed and addressed.

    The people of Linwood Township should insist that the Linwood Town Board reconsider Ms. Haapoja’s resignation and responsibly address her concerns on their behalf – and, so Ms. Haapoja can retain her position.

    I hope the fine people of the town pay closer attention to what’s really going on in their local government. At this point, I believe that the citizens of Linwood Township would benefit from a County Attorney or a State Attorney Generals investigation into the township records, management and operations. A good starting point would be last Novembers suspicious and odd election numbers (and results) for Town Clerk.

    • Sandra

      Way to hit the nail on the head Steve. I have been watching questional behavoir / spending going on for years. I am glad to see more & more people getting it. Another problem that has come to light is this cemetary problem. Yet another blunder.

  • Steve Anderson

    For a synopsis of Linwood Town Board meetings I suggest folks go to Board Supervisor Carol Searing’s public service website at http://www.linwoodcarol.webstarts.com. Information is posted faster than that on the official Township website.

    Also, the website does not filter, censor, or leave out the valuable ideas, suggestions and opinions presented by the citizens attending the meetings.

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