TWO HARBORS, Minn. — The Two Harbors City Council unanimously voted to ask its mayor to resign on Monday during a special meeting — though Chris Swanson was not there to hear the decision.
It's unclear whether Swanson will heed the council's recommendation. He has said several times previously that he will not resign.
Swanson, in his second term as mayor of the city of about 3,600 northeast of Duluth, has faced growing scrutiny in recent months. He first gained attention with his proposal to build an underwater hotel in Lake Superior, then criticism shifted to the overlap between his personal businesses and his elected position — with City Attorney Tim Costley offering the opinion that Swanson used his position for personal gain and violated the city's communications policies.
Many of the City Council meetings in the past six months have included public commentary that is critical of the mayor. During Monday's meeting, council members spoke about their inability to focus on the work they were elected to do, the amount of e-mails they are receiving from constituents and the anxiety of being in this elected position.
"It is going to take years for future councils and administrations to clear up this mess and to make Two Harbors respected again in the state and across the country," Council Member Robin Glaser said at the meeting.
"I think it's time for the mayor to resign," Council Member Miles Woodruff said.
It's unclear whether the council's decision means anything. Swanson cannot be fired from his elected position. He could still be ousted later this summer. The council voted in late May to hold a recall election, based on hundreds of signatures from fed-up residents collected by the grassroots group Resign or Recall.
Last week, members of a family from the mayor's hometown of Silver Bay, Minn., including Melissa Giles and her mother, Nancy Christenson, asked to speak during the public comment period about Swanson. They were removed from the agenda before the meeting. At the time, Council President Ben Redden said that the family's claims against Swanson were from before he was elected into public office. Redden offered other council members a chance to weigh in at that meeting, but no one spoke.
The council considered letting Giles and Christenson speak at an upcoming meeting and again opted against it.
Monday's meeting, which was added late last week, had a singular focus: "To discuss and consider addressing concerns regarding Mayor Christopher Swanson." When the council ruled to ask him to resign, some of the 40 people in the largely critical attendance applauded.
Todd Ronning, one of the leaders of Resign or Recall said he was disappointed the mayor didn't show up for Monday's meeting — though it wasn't a surprise.
"Going forward, I don't know what we can expect," he said. "We can hope he will heed the motion. My head is always reeling after these meetings."
Swanson will receive the council's decision as a written correspondence given that he wasn't at the meeting, Redden said.
Swanson did not respond to a phone call or e-mail earlier today to discuss the meeting.