North Branch city employees are being ignored in the investigation of Renae Fry, according to their union representative.

Erik Skoog, president of the Teamsters Local 320, addressed the council during public comment at their April 25 meeting, saying they have failed their employees in the course of the investigation.

Fry has been under investigation since January, when council members Peter Schaps and Kelly Neider requested a closed session to conduct a second performance review after Fry received a positive result in December 2022.

The investigation has since expanded, over multiple open and closed meetings, to include an organizational consultant at up to $15,000 to conduct a “climate assessment” of the city as a workplace.

Skoog, who represents “nearly two dozen” North Branch employees, avoided particulars of the investigation, most of which are not public data. Instead, he talked about the “labor peace” Fry and the former administration have achieved — and implied that was unlikely to continue without a course change from the council.

“We’ve got a contract coming up in a year and a half,” Skoog said. “My fear is your apathy, come election season in a year and a half, is going to cause even more discord within my rank and file, and myself.”

Skoog said he emailed Mayor Kevin Schieber and Councilmember Bob Canada, as members of the personnel committee, asking on behalf of the employees he represents for a meeting to discuss the investigation. That email, he said, was ignored.

“To ignore myself, and my request, that’s a sign of disrespect,” Skoog said. “I don’t take disrespect very well.”

Skoog said employees have reached out to the mayor and council for help and received none. Several employees have information relevant to the investigation, but have not been interviewed.

“You’ve got a number of employees that haven’t been able to corroborate or vindicate,” Skoog said, gesturing toward Fry.

“If your attorney is giving you advice, saying ‘we can’t talk to those folks,’ that’s horse (expletive) advice. Plain and simple,” Skoog said. “That’s poor, poor advice.”

Mayor Schieber told Skoog he would reach out to the city attorney’s office again to inquire about a meeting, wherein the attorney could tell Skoog whatever he could.

“There is more going on than you’re aware of, that we can’t get into in an open meeting,” Schieber said.

Skoog finished with an assurance that he was “not here to threaten.”

“I encourage you to get this wrapped up. Put it behind us. Whatever that looks like, let’s move on, but don’t ignore employees,” he said.

“Because if you ignore them, then it comes to me, and we have to get down and dirty. And I’ll take my money on me every day of the week.”


Public works director Shawn Williams provided his usual updates on city projects, including the water main replacement under Highway 95.

That project, Williams said, is currently in the design phase, hence the many surveyors along Main Street. Construction is set to start late July or early August.

However, the Minnesota Department of Transportation called Williams recently to tell him it was ready to temporarily patch parts of the road.

“The last time MnDOT patched Main Street, in 2022, they did not coordinate with the city, and did the repair work just a week before the city had to tear the street up again,” Williams said.

He said he is coordinating with the city engineers and MnDOT to potentially delay the repairs until after the water main construction is complete and will update the council with progress.


Also at the meeting was Linda Madsen of the Lakes Center for Youth and Families. The executive director presented data on the organization’s programs in the area, which include North Branch.

LCYF serves as an intervention for young people who might otherwise be referred to the court system after being accused of a crime or engaging in “higher-risk behavior,” according to their report filed with the council. It also provides in-school therapeutic counseling for students and enrichment programs.

For North Branch in particular, LCYF provided intervention services for 13 people, along with 27 enrichment program participants and fewer thanfivereceiving counseling in 2022.

North Branch has provided funding to LCYF in the past but hit a hiccup a few years back that was partially rectified in 2022.

LCYF requested $4,500 in funding through a new contract for service, which would be required to come from the city’s 2023 levy. A similar request had been approved by the council in 2019, but due to a clerical error while a city employee was retiring, the check was never issued.

The council in October agreed to fund LCYF at $1,000 provided the levy did not increase but asked that LCYF ask earlier in the future, which they did this year.

The majority of the council spoke up in favor of the organization, saying they would support funding its work in the next budget.

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