Johnson: Bemidji City Council did not take complaints seriously

By: Gary Johnson, chairman, Bemidji Alliance


The Bemidji Alliance is an innovative, new collaboration of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bemidji Downtown Alliance, Visit Bemidji (visitor and convention bureau), and Greater Bemidji (economic development).

The Alliance partners represent hundreds of Bemidji-area businesses, organizations, and community groups who share a passion for the Bemidji area.

The Alliance is led by a 33-person volunteer Leadership Council working together to advance the Alliance’s mission to build a prosperous future for everyone in the greater Bemidji region.

The Alliance is embarking on a broad community visioning effort entitled “Envision Bemidji 2030”, an effort to think from the future and identify smart ways to make positive change and leverage our phenomenal community assets to their fullest.

Every interested person will be encouraged to participate in this important community effort.

On Thursday, August 1st, the Bemidji Alliance filed a formal personnel misconduct complaint to the City of Bemidji, because we felt it critical for the City Council to understand the numerous challenges members of this community have experienced in interactions with the City Manager.

These ongoing challenges keep our community from moving forward to create the very best possible future for the greater Bemidji region.

The 22-page complaint details a pattern of inappropriate behavior by the City Manager that repeatedly violates the City’s own stated core values and makes it impossible for the community to work together effectively and respectfully.

These core values are:

• Communication – be open, consistent, truthful, and respectful in all communications

• Ethics – maintain the highest standards of professional behavior

• Civility – maintain an atmosphere of respect and civility

• Stewardship – responsible and sustainable use of the City’s limited resources

• Creativity & Innovation – keep an open mind to new concepts and solutions

• Leadership – advocate to further the vision of a quality community

With the hope that our concerns would be dealt with promptly and respectfully, we offered to keep our personnel complaint out of the public eye.

We did this out of respect for city leadership and to ensure that community members not privy to the background and depth of our complaint, would not rush to judgement on the concerns.

We were very disappointed that the City Council did not approach this in the same manner when they chose to release a press statement indicating their support for the City Manager.

Given that statement, it appears that our complaint was not taken seriously.

It is our expectation when a formal complaint is issued regarding the conduct of a public employee, there would be a complete investigation in order to determine whether or not action is required.

The Bemidji City Council did not conduct an investigation into our 22-page formal personnel misconduct complaint; instead, they were quick to publicly voice their continued support for the City Manager without fully understanding or examining our serious concerns.

We find the issuing of support without investigation to be both inappropriate and unacceptable.

The Bemidji community and greater Bemidji region deserve better.

The Bemidji Alliance stands firm in the expectations and timeframes detailed in our complaint.

We await the results of a formal investigation and a formal response from the City to our complaint.

In the meantime, we will move ahead with Envision 2030 and encourage the community to participate in this important initiative to together define our future.

We are proud of our community, and are optimistic for our future.

The Bemidji Alliance family of organizations is poised to help the Bemidji area grow and prosper.


Gary Johnson, Chairperson

On behalf of the Bemidji Alliance

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