Beets of wrongdoing
Former mayor cites e-mail conversation about reduced liquor violation penalties
Roseville Review 2/15/06
by Jon Lentz
Roseville City Manager Neal Beets exceeded his authority in reducing the penalties of three liquor establishments caught selling alcohol to a minor during a compliance check last summer, former mayor John Kysylyczyn claimed in a criminal complaint filed last month.
According to the Jan. 19 complaint, the city’s liquor ordinance specifically designates the City Council to hear appeals of the penalties, which in each case called for a $500 fine and a one-day suspension.
Kysylyczyn alleged in the complaint that Beets ignored the code in holding hearings for the three businesses — Old Chicago, Green Mill, and the Roseville VFW Post No. 7555 — and in staying the suspensions. He is accusing Beets of knowingly disregarding the ordinance.
“The point is that Neal Beets himself knew he was violating the law, and he did so anyway. That’s really the crux of the complaint,” Kysylyczyn said. “Secondly, there is a social issue — is this the example we should be setting in our community of selling alcohol to kids?”
Beets and other city officials declined to comment on the allegations since a police investigation is underway.
“I’m fully cooperating with the police, and until they’re done with their work, I’m not going to comment on it,” City Manager Neal Beets said. The charges, which Kysylyczyn filed with the Roseville Police Department, are currently under investigation by the Maple Grove Police Department. The matter was referred to another jurisdiction to avoid a conflict of interest. “It’s still in the early portions of the investigation,” Maple Grove Police Sergeant Trenton MacDonald said last week. “My timeline is about two weeks.” Kysylyczyn, a controversial figure in Roseville politics, was mayor in 2000 when the ordinance enacting stricter liquor penalties was approved. He often offers outspoken criticism at council meetings, which he still attends regularly. “It seems to me this is a case of John (Kysylyczyn) being more interested in trying to score political points instead of actually solving a problem,” said Mayor Craig Klausing, who called the complaint “an attempt to turn a policy question into a political matter.”
Kysylyczyn told the Roseville Review that he came across an exchange of e-mails between Beets and Police Chief Carol Sletner while reviewing Beets’s correspondence as city manager during 2005.
Kysylyczyn said he obtained the documents after making a public information request in December to look into the city’s recycling services.
Copies of the e-mails and letters, which Kysylyczyn provided for the Roseville Review, mention the failed compliance checks for Green Mill, Old Chicago and Roseville VFW Post No. 7555 on Aug. 12.
In separate Oct. 28 letters sent from Beets to each of the three businesses, they are told that he is staying the suspensions based on testimony provided at hearings held on Sept. 27, as long as no further violations occur for twelve months. Beets also required that, among other conditions, each establishment participate in the city’s optional manager and server training program.
Several e-mails between Beets and Sletner in October and November appear to reveal a disagreement over both the legality and the prudence of staying the suspensions.
In an Oct. 7 e-mail to Beets, Sletner writes that she is “very concerned” about “postponing” the suspensions, noting that each business had failed alcohol compliance checks in past years.
“...Once word of this gets out, other businesses will appeal their suspensions also.......I believe it’s important to stick to the letter of the ordinance,” Sletner wrote in a second e-mail sent later that day.
A month later on Nov. 7, Sletner wrote to Beets that when the new ordinance was passed, the council “did not want to get involved in the appeals process” and advised then-City Manager Steve Sarkozy that he would be their representative in any such hearings.
The next day Beets replied that, “Technically, I don’t believe the Council can “delegate” their decision-making authority to a staff “representative,” especially when the Code is silent about that. Technically, a violator could insist that, as stated in the Code, their must be heard and decided by the Council.”
Kysylyczyn first brought his concerns to the council at a Jan. 9 meeting. The issue was put on the Jan. 23 agenda, but was pulled after Kysylyczyn filed the criminal complaint.
A staff report written by Beets for the Jan. 23 agenda item explains that when liquor licensees are sent a letter informing them of their right to appeal penalties, the appeal is referred to the city manager, which has been the practice since before Beets took the position. “Pursuant to this letter, I have heard 5-10 liquor appeals,” Beets wrote in the report. The report then goes on to present the council the choice of hearing and deciding all appeals or making the city manager the council’s designee to hear the appeals initially, with the licensee having the option to appeal to the council later.
Mayor Klausing said the council hopes to look at the issue again once the police review is completed.
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