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EXCLUSIVE Swisher City Council Meetings, Volatile Exchanges
SWISHER, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - A volatile city council meeting in early November in Swisher ended with the resignations of both Mayor, Tim Mason, and City Clerk, Connie Meier. None of the city council members have wanted to go on camera with CBS2/FOX28 to comment on what went wrong. However, CBS2/FOX28 acquired video from the city of Swisher of the meeting when the resignations took place and of all the meetings that were videotaped. The taping began in April of 2013. Community members said the taping was requested by Meier because of the events at recent meetings.
A number of the videos did include heated exchanges between council members. However, the most volatile was the city council meeting on November 11, 2013. Council Member Angie Hinrichs, Mayor, Tim Mason, and City Clerk, Connie Meier, were all involved in the exchange. Hinrichs was unhappy with a letter that Meier had sent. Here's a transcription of what took place.
Angie Hinrichs - "This was brought to my attention after the last meeting that there was some consequences, I'm not sure who did that or what,"Hinrichs said of the letter.
She went on to say, "Fisher and Fisher's lawyer received a copy of that. Can I ask who sent that to them? This was made out to the Mayor and City Council only."
City Clerk Connie Meier - "Everything that comes to this office is public information."
Hinrichs - "How would they have even known to ask for it, unless you told them we received it?"
Mason - "What problem do you have? This was public information being given to the public that requested it."
Hinrichs - "Nothis was made out to us."
Mason - "So?"
Hinrichs - "Because there were consequences that were had."
Mason - "What consequences?"
Hinrichs - "The person that did this."
Mason - "What consequences?"
Hinrichs - "That, you can just go ask."
Meier - "They filed a lawsuit against us so it was sent to our attorney."
Hinrichs - "I'll contact our attorney and see what he has to say about it."
Mason - "Oh, no, you won't,"
Hinrichs - "I will."
Mason - "and then you'll pay for it."
Hinrichs - "I'm a council member, you can contact them, I can at free will."
Mason to Meier - "Do we need to have the city attorney here?"
Hinrichs - "Yeah, maybe we should have the city attorney here."
Mason to Meier - "How does that work?"
Meier - "Anything that comes through this office, Angie, is public information, I have to send it to whoever asks for it."
Mason - "You got a problem with it?"
Hinrichs - "Yeah, when it threatens someone's job, I do have a problem with it."
Meier - "He sent that to us on his company letterhead which gives us the impression, according to our attorney, that that company is representing him."
Hinrichs - "That's fine. I'll check into it. I just want it on the record that I did not give this because if there's any consequences that come back to the city council, I did not give this to them."
Mason - "What consequences?"
Hinrichs - "I'm just telling you there could be consequences. It could be a lawsuit against us."
Mason - "For what?"
Meier - "For what? Giving out public information?"
Hinrichs - "You say it's public, that's fine."
Meier - "It is public. Anything that comes through here is public information except for personnel issues."
Hinrichs - "That's fine, I'll just check into it more further. I just want to be the one that, I did not do it. I did not know about it."
Meier -"You know what Angie, I am sick of you, you can take my keys to this office and shove them up your ***."
Hinrichs - "Ok."
Meier - "I am gone, I am so sick of this ********."
That wasn't the first time council members appeared at odds. In June, there was a disagreement over how much city money the mayor should be able to spend without council permission.
Hinrichs - "You went and bought that, but you didn't come to the council and ask us if we needed that or not."
Mason - "You either trust me to make the right decisions and Connie, apparently you don't."
Community members told us Meier requested meetings be taped due to their volatile nature.
As for the dual resignations, Mason had already shown his support for Meier when her potential pay raise came before the council in April. Hinrichs was concerned about how many hours a week Swisher City Hall stays open.
Hinrichs - "You're the mayor, and you really don't know how many hours she works."
Mason - "I sign her time sheets every week. Sure I do!"
Further into the conversation Mason added, "I have mayors around here telling me what a wonderful city clerk we have. So her reputation is far and wide as a city clerk. We don't want to lose her."
Hinrichs responded, "When you look around at other towns, she's getting paid."
Mason then replied, "I'd give her more, quite frankly."
Council Member Mike Stagg offered this statement regarding the events that have transpired, "We're just going to move forward. We don't want to look back."
Others who spoke to CBS2/FOX28 on camera in previous stories told us the community backlash was too severe to say anything again.
Interestingly, the night of the resignations there were 13 students from Prairie High School present. They were part of teacher Kent Knoska's American Government class. Also, Mayor Pro Tem, Mary Gudenkauf, works at Prairie High School as a Career Development Specialist. The College Community School District declined to comment on the meeting that students attended.
While some students laughed at what they witnessed the night of the resignations, both of the students that CBS2/FOX28 spoke with said they were not impressed.
"My initial reaction was shock. I was really disappointed with the lack of civility that went on," Prairie High School Senior, Kayla Tjelmeland said.
Fellow Prairie student, Seth Maher added, "I was kind of shocked. I was expecting something more professional."
Seth's mom, Debbie elaborated on her son's learning experience, "You realize what politics is all about!"
The city council is accepting resumes right now for the open city clerk position. They meet on Monday, December 9th to set a date for the special mayoral election. That is expected to happen next year.