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St. Anthony city leaders and officials are pushing back against criticism from some residents over their annual overnight goal-setting retreat.

Amid concerns about the gathering being costly and inconvenient to attend, they defended the session at a Jan. 23 City Council meeting, saying that other cities have used St. Anthony as a model for effective planning.

“It’s still a good process,” Mayor Jerry Faust said. “It’s good for the city.”

For years, council members, staffers and other stakeholders have met at an out-of-town hotel to cement priorities and plans for the coming year, and they have stayed at the hotel overnight. Though many cities hold annual planning retreats, St. Anthony officials are alone among their municipal neighbors in staying overnight outside the city for a planning retreat.

Costs for last year’s gathering totaled nearly $9,600 and were expected to be about the same for this year’s meeting, held Jan. 11-12 across the river at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park. The total bill included hotel, food and meeting-room rental costs, as well as money spent on a consultant to facilitate the sessions.

“I’m a little disappointed that something that has been a positive thing for the 14 years I’ve been on the council somehow is negative now,” said Council Member Hal Gray at the council meeting. “It’s not like this has been a secret.”

Some residents have raised open meeting law concerns over the gathering being held outside the city.

“It’s not easy to go over to Brooklyn Park,” said Nancy Robinett, who attended the retreat. “It just ups the ante and makes it that much harder to participate.”

Hannah Covington

Stillwater

Harycki begins serving federal prison term

Kenneth Harycki, the former Stillwater mayor convicted of defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars, began his prison sentence Jan. 8 in Duluth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

His projected release date is November 2018.

Harycki’s sentencing last fall in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis was related to tax fraud he committed in his private accounting office in Stillwater. Harycki will have to pay more than $2.1 million in restitution to the government.

He wasn’t charged with crimes related to city business, although he was mayor at the time.

Harycki’s guilty plea in January 2015 included a provision that he would give “substantial” assistance in the prosecution of co-conspirators Thurlee and Roylee Belfrey. They pleaded guilty last fall.

Kevin Giles

School board probe cost more than $16K

A $200-an-hour investigation of a complaint filed by a Stillwater school district employee against two school board members cost taxpayers $16,130.25, officials said.

To investigate, the board hired Fergus Falls, Minn., attorney Kristi Hastings, who interviewed the board’s seven members last fall. She concluded that Sarah Stivland and Mike Ptacek didn’t create a hostile work environment but did behave disrespectfully toward the unnamed district employee.

The complaint against Stivland and Ptacek related to disagreements over the district’s closing of three elementary schools last spring.

Much of the 95-page report was redacted to conceal the identity of the complainant. It offered no recommendations other than to encourage “straightforward, honest and clear communication” among the school board’s seven members. As a result, Stivland and Ptacek met individually in mediation with the complainant.

Kevin Giles

Ramsey County

Brady honored for service to county

Patricia Brady, who is retiring after 17 years as Ramsey County’s Workforce Solutions director, received a recognition award last month from the County Board.

“She’s been with us for 17 years, and she’s been a great employee, great colleague and a good friend,” Commissioner Rafael Ortega said.

In her time leading Workforce Solutions, a program that supports county businesses and job seekers, Brady led committees and initiatives designed to achieve racial equity across the metro area. Those efforts included the Blue Ribbon Community and the Everybody In initiative, intended to tackle the issue of job inequality for people of color.

At the board meeting where she received the award, Brady spoke with pride of those efforts.

“It has been an unparalleled honor and privilege to have been able to serve Ramsey County for these last 17 years,” she said. “I’ve been humbled by the opportunity to serve and to see the lives of our clients change by the work we’ve all done together.”

Brady also was director of the county’s Workforce Innovation board.

Emily Allen