CROOKSTON – Crookston City Administrator Shannon Stassen has resigned, marking the second resignation by a high-ranking city leader in the past two months.
Stassen's last day will be Dec. 10. The City Council unanimously accepted a severance agreement with Stassen at its meeting on Monday, Nov. 25.
According to the agreement, Stassen's resignation is voluntary and can be rescinded at any time before Dec. 10. Stassen's LinkedIn page indicates he has been Crookston's city administrator since January 2014.
Stassen's resignation comes two months after former Mayor Guy Martin abruptly resigned his position.
In a Nov. 1 email to the City Council, Stassen expressed alarm at the "ineptness and unethical nature" of the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority. In the same email, Stassen informed the council of his intent to pursue a severance agreement if the council did not remove the executive director of CHEDA and also work to reform the organization.
In his list of grievances, Stassen cited seven concerns, including what he calls "deception" by CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth regarding a $250,000 forgivable loan to Red Wing, Minn.-based Epitome Energy for a proposed biodiesel soybean crushing plant.
"It is impossible for me, as the city administrator, to overlook such an egregious act of deception involving hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money," Stassen wrote in the email. "I am left with no choice but to report this information."
Stassen summarized his concerns by saying CHEDA's general lack of business retention and succession planning does not have a strategy and is, therefore, a poor investment for Crookston. He added that the one major job creation project, the biodiesel venture Epitome Energy, had been "mishandled, and the public, elected officials, appointed officials and city staff have been lied to in order to move it forward."
Hoiseth, when reached by the Herald Tuesday, replied "absolutely not."
"(Hoiseth and Stassen) might not have agreed on some key issues, but it's truly unfortunate that (Stassen) chose to travel down the path he did," said Hoiseth, adding that he believes CHEDA "is the best investment the city has .... I think I'm charged with acting in the most ethical and professional manner as possible representing the city of Crookston."
Hoiseth also wished Stassen and his family "nothing but the very best."
In previous interviews with the Herald, Hoiseth has said he doesn't think the city or development authority has done anything "rash" or "quick to the gun" and his organization has been vetting the loan "thoroughly and very incrementally."
The separation agreement between Stassen and the city stipulates that "the city will pay (Stassen) the equivalent of six months of salary at his current rate of compensation, less applicable withholding for federal and state taxes." He also will be paid for all accrued and unused vacation time.
Crookston City Clerk Angel Weasner said it's unclear when a new city administrator will be hired. A request for bids will be drafted to hire a search firm to aid the process, she said.
"He didn't come to this decision lightly," Weasner said of Stassen. "He is requesting changes to be made through the proper process."
Dale Stainbrook, the city's acting mayor, could not be reached for comment prior to this publication's deadline.
Martin, the previous mayor, resigned in September. He has said he witnessed the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority director, members of the development authority’s board of commissioners and “certain members” of City Council act “unethically and completely contrary to the opinions and desires of Crookston community members.”
When reached by Forum News Service, Martin said he had no proof of the alleged unethical behavior.