New Brighton commissioner removed for letter that ‘insulted’ council

screen grab • Ben Jones spoke before the New Brighton City Council Feb. 12, the same night council members voted to remove him from the city’s Planning Commission for writing a letter to the editor that ran in this paper, criticizing the council.

The New Brighton City Council voted Feb. 12 to remove Ben Jones from the city’s Planning Commission because he wrote a letter to the editor that ran in this paper, criticizing the council.

“When commissioners enter into the fray of political commentary and editorialization of council and its politics, that affects their impartiality and comprises their efficacy as a commissioner” said City Manager Dean Lotter while giving a presentation on the expectations of city commissioners during the meeting.

The council voted 3-2 to remove Jones from the commission for failing to meet the standards of a commissioner. Council members Graeme Allen and Paul Jacobsen were in favor of only reprimanding him.

Jones’ letter ran in the Jan. 9 and 10 editions of the paper and was about the council moving city elections from odd to even years, a move that extends the terms of the mayor, and the two council members elected last year, Allen and Emily Dunsworth.

The vote to remove Jones was preceded by a presentation about the council signing a letter, making the election change official.

Jones’ letter said the council made “a self-serving move and [was] disrespectful to the electorate.” The letter said the council “claimed” the reason for the change was to increase voter turnout, but they’d acted to lengthen their terms and the move was “insulting to the voter.”

“Is he telling me that, based on what I said tonight and the fact that I am going to sign the letter, that I am a liar?” asked Mayor Val Johnson. “He has insulted me, he has insulted this council. I don’t know if I could ever trust him again as a commissioner.”

Johnson first introduced removing Jones at a Jan. 23 council work session, saying an appointed person “does not have the privilege of bashing your boss, so to speak.”

Allen said Jones’ letter topic is outside the Planning Commission’s purview, though he “feels less comfortable” removing Jones.

Both Allen and Jacobsen voted on a motion to only sanction Jones at the Feb. 12 council meeting. But three votes against, from Johnson, Dunsworth and council member Mary Burg blocked the sanction, and the three went on to vote to dismiss Jones.

“He has a responsibility to act in a different way,” said Burg. 

Jones pleaded his case before the decision, speaking during the public comment segment of the meeting. He said he reached out to the council before writing the letter and the only time he’s missed a planning commission meeting was for the birth of his son.

“Perhaps, looking back, I should have softened a line, or two,” he said.


— Solomon Gustavo

Rate this article: 
Average: 1 (1 vote)
Comment Here