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Northern Minnesota city council, which earlier scorned reporter, accused of new violations

ROOSEVELT, Minn. — Three city council members in the northern Minnesota community of Roosevelt were replaced during Tuesday's election following a meeting in which incumbent council members allegedly refused to answer questions and voted to pay unopened bills.

The council has been under fire since last month, when the former city clerk swore at a reporter and a council member towered over and berated her for asking questions during a meeting.

City Council member Arlyn Stewart was cited for disorderly conduct after an investigation by the Roseau County Sheriff's Office. He has not responded to multiple messages seeking comment. City Clerk Alyce Siats resigned several weeks earlier than planned because of the incident.

The town has been operating without a mayor for over a year, and Stewart has unofficially stepped into the role. Gerald Landby was elected to the post Tuesday.

David Palm, Leland Hendrickson and Michael Nordine were elected to replace current council members Stan Derosier, Timothy Friesner and Steven Brosdahl. Stewart's term expires in two years.

Reporter Doris Knutson from Baudette's weekly Northern Light Region said she has been covering the small town of about 150 people for over a year after readers told her about rumors of dysfunction within the council.

The council disregards open meeting laws and was unable to produce financial records for the last eight years, Knutson said.

Northern Light Region Publisher Julie Bergman wrote in an editorial that "democracy is dead in Roosevelt." She said the council refused to take comments during a 12-minute meeting Monday, Nov. 5. She said the agenda was kept private, which violates Minnesota open meeting laws. Bergman said the group voted to pay bills they hadn't seen because Stewart said the key to the mailbox was still with Siats. She said they also approved hiring without taking bids and did not present previous meeting minutes or financial reports.

Knutson had requested the Northern Light Region be added to the agenda so she and Bergman could talk about the incident and also follow up on previous open records requests. She said the request was ignored and Bergman was told she couldn't ask a question even after the meeting was finished.

The Northern Light Region sent a formal request to the council through the city's attorney on Oct. 15 asking for a formal apology from Siats and Stewart and a promise to follow open meeting laws in future. They have not received an answer and Knutson said they were unable to ask about it during Monday's meeting.

Council member-elect Hendrickson said the new members plan to solve a number of problems in the council.

"We're going to establish harmony within the community and listen to them," he said.

Roosevelt is 12 miles east of Warroad.

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