The Canton City Council met in special session on Thursday evening, August 25, following the resignation of its city clerk, Brock Bergey.
In a brief letter, dated August 22, Bergey stated his resignation would be effective September 5, however his last day in the office would be August 24, using accrued leave time and the legal holiday on September 5, for the remainder of his time.
“Thank you for this public service opportunity; however, I no longer wish to be employed by the City of Canton. I wish you the best,” his letter concluded.
The meeting began with Mayor Cindy Shanks explaining the purpose of the special meeting, to hear public comment on the issue and to accept Bergey’s resignation. The city would also ultimately pass a resolution to post the job opening.
She also explained the council members would listen to public comment, but would not answer questions or comment in return. Each resident was allowed two minutes to speak.
LeRoy Haynes suggested trying to negotiate with Bergey, offering him a leave of absence if necessary, but asking him to remain in his role for the long-term.
“He will be sorely missed,” agreed fellow Canton resident Diane Drottz. “He did a lot of work and turned this city around. I will personally miss him.”
Jane Hall stated, in light of recent events that included personal attacks of city employees, that the council needs to put a stop to this kind of disrespect. If the council does not take a stand, she feels the same issues will affect whomever takes the city clerk position.
Karl Urbaniak, a local resident and teacher, stated it was the first time he had attended any city council meeting after living in the community for several decades. He acknowledged that it is a thankless job to be a member of the council and wanted to be sure to thank those council members who would not be seeking reelection in the fall. “Thank you for all you have done for Canton,” he reiterated. “But did we have Brock’s back? How does the city respond when an employee is harassed?”
Urbaniak, like Hall, was concerned about how the residents who are mistreating the city employees are being dealt with and if all the employees are being treated with disrespect.
“How do we, as citizens, show our respect and gratitude for our employees?” he asked with no answers given.
As his time was nearing an end, another resident waived her two minutes of speaking to allow Urbaniak to continue.
In his additional minutes, he complimented Bergey for the work he did for the city and highlighted the fact that over the past few years, city expenses had gone down. “I don’t know of any other governmental agency where that has taken place,” he said. “Somebody must be doing a good job.”
He also pointed out that the city employees deserve to make a fair wage and should be complimented on their ability to do a variety of things.
In conclusion, he once again thanked the council and the city employees for the good work they do to make Canton a good place to live.
Terry Morin, in frustration, asked the council again if the residents were going to get any answers. “If not,” she said, “I’m leaving. This is a complete waste of time.”
Once the public comment period concluded, the council brought forth the issue of accepting Bergey’s resignation.
“I don’t think we’re going to solve anything by discussing it, I think we should just move on,” said Councilman Carl Ernst.
The next step was to approve a motion to start the application process, and Shanks and Councilman Josh Nordsving were appointed to help with the hiring process.
The council also approved additional hours for Barb Kerns, the deputy city clerk, as she accepts additional responsibilities until a new clerk can be hired.
Finally, the city approved a motion for a letter to be sent to resident Evan Richardson from Mayor Shanks, informing him that he is forbidden “from entering or remaining on the Canton City Hall property… If you attempt to enter or remain on this property, you may be subject to Reagan action, including arrest and criminal trespassing charges.”
The letter also stated, “This notice is effective immediately and remain in effect permanently.”
Shanks explained that this action was taken “for the safety of our employees.”
Copies of the letter were also sent to the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office, Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson and the City Attorney, Greg Schieber.