Our view: Another fallen elected leader can do right | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

A year ago Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell was a hero after being shot and seriously wounded by a sexual predator of young girls he had just successfully prosecuted and who then opened fire in the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais. His actions and the actions of others were credited for saving lives.
Last week, Scannell was back in the headlines but hardly as a hero. He was being ordered by the court to stay away from a 17-year-old girl with whom he apparently started a romantic relationship. The petition seeking a
restraining order against Scannell, 46, was signed by the girl’s parents, his one-time friends. The girl’s mother said Scannell came to her workplace this fall to tell her he loved her daughter and that their relationship over the summer had become physical, according to reporting by the News Tribune’s Mark Stodghill.
“But nothing illegal,” Scannell reportedly said to the girl’s mother.
Even if not technically illegal — Minnesota’s age of consent is 16 — Scannell’s relationship with an impressionable, still-maturing minor nearly 30 years his younger is, at the very least, inappropriate. His decision to participate actively in such a relationship is not in line with behavior Cook County voters and constituents can expect and demand from an elected leader, someone supported and trusted by the community and someone who can expect to be held to a higher standard of conduct and a stricter level of scrutiny.
Troublingly, Scannell is just one on a growing list in the past year or so of badly behaving elected Northland leaders, some of whom have owned up to their actions and taken responsibility while others have not. The list includes Duluth School Board member Tom Kasper, who was the subject of an investigation by his employers with the city of Duluth after an undisclosed complaint; Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler, who pleaded guilty to driving drunk; state Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, who stepped away from a bid for re-election after an oral sex scandal involving a boy at a public rest area; and state Rep.-elect Erik Simonson, whose estranged, 20-year-old daughter said during the fall elections that he abandoned her except for financially when she was 2 years old.
Scannell can do the right and responsible thing by not waiting until re-election time for voters to decide whether they want a county attorney with a restraining order against him. He can consider stepping aside now, giving himself time to take stock of decisions he’s making, at least one of which seems, at the very least, inappropriate.

A School Board member’s view: The Red Plan: Where did the money come from? | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Art Johnston represents the 4th District on the Duluth School Board.

We have nearly finished the Red Plan. But rather than hearing about what a great plan it turned out to be, the main discussion from the public is why we have such large class sizes and why we have been cutting curriculum. The News Tribune has done stories on the impact reduced curriculum and increased class sizes have had on our students.

Are the Red Plan and these negative educational impacts related? The answer is a resounding yes.

Last year, more than $7 million that was in the school district’s general fund (the money used for classrooms) was transferred to cover debt obligation payments for the Red Plan. These transfers and their impact routinely have been explained away by the administration and kept out of budget-deficit discussions.

The administration tries to justify the transfers of money from the general fund for Red Plan payments by saying the Red Plan resulted in general-fund savings. But a reality check shows those savings to be less than predicted. There have been no reported energy-cost savings. The new buildings grew in size — and so did maintenance costs. Transportation costs are up. The old school buildings were to be sold for $27 million, but that estimate has been lowered to $16 million. And few buildings have yet sold.

Worse, the Red Plan’s financial scheme has general-fund savings (as questionable as they are) plowed into paying for the Red Plan debt obligations.

So what did we get for $315 million? By design, no help for classrooms but fancy buildings Duluth may not be able to afford.

During their promotion of the Red Plan, the school administration and the district’s Red Plan consultant and architect, Johnson Controls, implied and directly stated that taxes would not increase over an initial bump in 2009, that class sizes would remain the same or go down, and that curriculum would be able to be expanded. In fact, Johnson Controls said in its Jan. 24, 2006, response to the Duluth school district’s request for proposals that what came to be known as the Red Plan could be built “in both a budget- and tax-neutral manner”; the company even vowed to “guarantee the financial solution in writing.”

It is time to do a sober reassessment of our options. We can continue taking $7 million a year out of the $80 million general fund to pay Red Plan debt obligations, with the possibility of continued larger class sizes and more reduced curriculum. And we can hope to sell Central High School, its windfall saving the district for one year.

It is correct to put part of the blame for the school district’s financial troubles on a lack of state funding, but begging the state is an unlikely way to get us more money. I call this the “Waiting for Godot” option.

We also can refinance the Red Plan by bringing in independent financial experts to analyze extending the payment schedule from 20 years to 30 years. This could result in lower general-fund transfers and the ability to keep property tax rates down without increasing the cost of the Red Plan. At the low interest rates of today, this is a real option.

In addition, we can ask for accountability and repayment from Johnson Controls. What happened to its guarantee “in writing”? Asking for accountability from Johnson Controls is not unprecedented. Other schools in the state have asked Johnson Controls for that, and the city of Duluth took Johnson Controls to task over work it did related to the city’s steam plant — and the city received $2.3 million for savings promised but not entirely delivered.

The school administration and Johnson Controls have used voodoo economics in an apparent attempt to hide the funding and the true cost of the Red Plan from the taxpaying public and school staffs.

We have new, fancy buildings that must be paid for. If none of the above options are taken, larger class sizes may continue or property tax increases may be needed to cover Red Plan debt obligations.

Art Johnston represents the 4th District on the Duluth School Board.

via A School Board member’s view: The Red Plan: Where did the money come from? | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

Duluth Building & Grounds Manager Resigns | FOX 21 News, KQDS-DT

DULUTH – The city of Duluth’s buildings and grounds manager Tom Kasper has resigned from his position.
Deputy City Attorney Allison Lutterman says Tom Kasper handed in his resignation Friday.
The city attorney’s office had been looking into complaints filed against Kasper on August 31st.

However, Lutterman says they will no longer be pursuing any action against Kasper in regards to the complaint since he is now a former city employee.

We tried contacting Mr. Kasper on his resignation, but calls were not returned.

Kasper also serves on the Duluth School Board.

via Duluth Building & Grounds Manager Resigns | FOX 21 News, KQDS-DT.

Duluth Building and Grounds Supervisor Resigns Amid Active Complaint | Northland’s NewsCenter: News, Weather, Sports | NBC, CBS, MyNetworkTV, and The CW for Duluth MN / Superior WI | Breaking News

Updated Oct 1, 2012 at 5:15 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland’s NewsCenter) — The Supervisor of Duluth’s Building and Grounds Supervisor has resigned from his position with the city following a complaint filed against him.

City officials confirm that there is an active complaint against Kasper, however could not comment on the nature of the complaint.

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Officials could also not confirm if this complaint had anything to do with Kasper’s resignation.

Kasper’s last day with the city of Duluth was on September 28th, which is when his resignation was accepted.

Kasper has been with the city of Duluth since 1994.

Kasper serves as the Vice Chair of the Duluth School Board.

via Duluth Building and Grounds Supervisor Resigns Amid Active Complaint | Northland’s NewsCenter: News, Weather, Sports | NBC, CBS, MyNetworkTV, and The CW for Duluth MN / Superior WI | Breaking News.

WDIO.com – Duluth School Board Member Resigns from City Position

Tom Kasper has worked for the City of Duluth since 1995, according to a profile in Duluth Superior Magazine. Kasper is also a Duluth School Board member.

Friday, Kasper resigned from his post as City Building and Grounds Supervisor, according to Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson.

Last month, city officials confirmed that Kasper was not working for the month of September. The city said at the time, they were investigating complaints and charges relating to Kasper, but said that the nature of the complaints would not be made public until disciplinary action, if any, was complete.

With Kasper’s resignation, Johnson said the city will not pursue their investigation because Kasper is no longer a city employee. That means the disciplinary action, if any, is not final. According to state law, that means information in the investigation is not public. Kasper himself has not answered any Eyewitness News requests for comment since the investigation began.

Kasper is also known in the community as a Duluth School Board Member. He’s been on the board since 2009, and is currently serving as Vice Chair. During his time away from his post with the city, Kasper did attend a regular school board meeting in September.

Duluth School District Spokesperson Katie Kaufman said she does not have any information on Kasper’s plans. Eyewitness News calls to Kasper for comment have not been returned.

via WDIO.com – Duluth School Board Member Resigns from City Position.

Duluth building and grounds supervisor resigns | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth School Board member Tom Kasper resigned from his position Friday as the city of Duluth’s building and grounds supervisor.

The resignation comes after Kasper posted on his Facebook page Sept. 10 that he was taking the month off. City officials confirmed that week the existence of an active complaint against Kasper, but declined to divulge details.

Kasper, who could not be reached for comment Monday, has in the past declined to talk about the complaint or his absence from the city.

City officials have not released information about the complaint or the reason for Kasper’s resignation.

“You would have to ask Mr. Kasper about that,” said Alison Lutterman, a deputy city attorney who typically handles data requests for the city.

Under the state’s Data Practice Act, the specific complaint and the reason for a disciplinary action taken against an employee only becomes public when a government entity “makes its final decision about the disciplinary action. … Final disposition includes a resignation by an individual when the resignation occurs after the final decision of the government entity, or arbitrator.”

Kasper’s resignation occurred before any disciplinary action was taken, Lutterman said.

“There was no final disciplinary action taken against Mr. Kasper,” Lutterman said. “We do not pursue complaints against people who are no longer employed with the city of Duluth.”

Kasper is in his third year of a four-year School Board term.

Board Chairwoman Ann Wasson said Monday that Kasper’s resignation doesn’t concern her.

“I don’t know why he resigned,” she said. “Tom is a very good and effective School Board member and I am sure he will continue to be. He advocates for children all of the time.”

Member Art Johnston said the resignation and suspension does raise concerns.

“I think we should know what happened so we, the board, and citizens can make sure there aren’t any negative ramifications on him being a School Board member.”

Member Bill Westholm said what happened with the city isn’t connected with the School Board.

“He’s still a person in good standing as far as I am concerned,” he said.

Duluth school Superintendent Bill Gronseth said his working relationship with Kasper has been positive.

“He cares a great deal about the community and education,” Gronseth said. “It doesn’t affect my personal workings with him.”

Kasper had worked for the city’s park maintenance department since 1994.

via Duluth building and grounds supervisor resigns | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

Duluth School Board member Tom Kasper resigns from city job | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Kasper has in the past declined to talk about the complaint or his absence from the city. (2012 file / News Tribune)

Duluth School Board member Tom Kasper resigned from his position Friday as the City of Duluth’s building and grounds supervisor.

The resignation comes after Kasper posted on his Facebook page Sept. 10 that was taking the month off. City officials confirmed that week the existence of an active complaint against Kasper, but declined to divulge any details.

Kasper, who could not immediately be reached for comment today, has in the past declined to talk about the complaint or his absence from the city.

City officials have not released information about the complaint or the reason for Kasper’s resignation.

“You would have to ask Mr. Kasper about that,” said Alison Lutterman, a deputy city attorney who typically handles data requests for the city.

Under the state’s Data Practice Act, the specific complaint and the reason for a disciplinary action taken against an employee only becomes public when a government entity “makes its final decision about the disciplinary action. … Final disposition includes a resignation by an individual when the resignation occurs after the final decision of the government entity, or arbitrator.”

Kasper’s resignation means that the city’s disciplinary action, if any, was not final.

“There was no final disciplinary action taken against Mr. Kasper,” Lutterman said. “We do not pursue complaints against people who are no longer employed with the City of Duluth.”

Kasper had worked for the city’s Park Maintenance department since 1994, according to a School Board candidate profile in the Duluth Budgeteer News in 2009.

via Duluth School Board member Tom Kasper resigns from city job | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.