A public hearing for the North Branch City Council has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 24 at 6 p.m. to address alleged violations of the City Code of Conduct made by Councilmember Kelly Neider.

According to Mayor Kevin Schieber during a special meeting of the council on Monday, May 8, former Councilmember Patrick Meacham has filed two complaints with the city attorney’s office claiming Neider violated the city’s code of conduct — once in February and once in March. Meacham was recently appointed to the North Branch Water & Light Commission on a 3-2 vote, with Neider and Councilmember Peter Schaps voting against his appointment.

While declining to go into specifics of the complaints due to what the city attorney’s office called “data privacy,” the city attorney opined the second complaint, which they stated took place “in March,” was at the level of needing a public hearing. The first complaint, labeled as taking place “in February,” did not rise to the level of a public hearing.

On a 3-1 vote, with Schaps voting nay and Neider unable to vote, the council approved a public hearing on the second complaint. At that hearing, the details of the complaint will be revealed and Neider will have an opportunity to defend herself. If the council by vote determines Neider did violate the code of conduct, the council could censure Neider (expressing their disapproval of the action). If the violation is deemed severe, the council could pursue criminal prosecution and/or removal from office, according to City Administrator Renae Fry.

open or closed?

At the start of the May 8 meeting, Neider questioned why it was labeled on the city’s website as a closed meeting even after Neider requested the meeting be held open several days ago.

“I am concerned the residents of North Branch did not get accurate information (about the meeting status),” Neider said.

“Every meeting begins as an open meeting until we decide to close it,” said Mayor Schieber, “so anyone who wants to attend has the right to attend at the beginning.

“As our city attorney has stated, Councilmember Neider has a decision up to the last minute whether she wants to open or close it, even though she had expressed an interest to open it,” Schieber added.

“If the subject of a meeting like this announces they want it open, they are doing it for a reason,” said Schaps, “they are saying it so the citizens can attend and observe. She made that election last week. We had time to amend this announcement.”

“The meeting is open,” added Fry, “the topic is what puts the council into a closed session.”

“Perhaps we can make that more clear in the future,” concluded Schaps.

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