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Former Crookston official accuses city leaders of illegal hiring, lying

Former council member and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Dana Johnson took the stand at a Crookston Ways and Means meeting Tuesday night to address what she said was corruption in the city's government.

Dana Johnson
Dana Johnson

Former council member and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Dana Johnson took the stand at a Crookston Ways and Means meeting Tuesday night to address what she said was corruption in the city's government.

Johnson waited until council members and staff finished discussing agenda items on downtown traffic and recycling to bring up concerns she had with an alleged conflict between City Administrator Shannon Stassen and Craig Hoiseth, the executive director of the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority.

"I've heard from so many people campaigning, 'What's going on? We're not going to get anywhere with economic development. Our head people in this town can't work together,'" Johnson told council members.

She went on to accuse Stassen of intentionally withholding information from Hoiseth, referring to an incident six months ago when Hoiseth didn't get all the documents he had requested from the city, and she alleged Stassen had lied to council member Tom Vedbraaten when he asked about the incident afterward.

Vedbraaten denied Johnson's claims Tuesday. He did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.


"I need to address that because being called a liar in public is not ... I can't stand for that," Stassen had said. To his knowledge at the time, Hoiseth had received everything he had asked for. Stassen later found out Hoiseth had not received one document.

"It can't be spun the other way," Stassen said. "There was no lie told, there never has been. It's just not accurate."

Johnson proceeded to accuse the city of hiring Stassen illegally. In an interview Wednesday, Johnson said she had been on the council representing Ward 2 in 2013, when the council formally approved hiring Stassen.

"At the time (Stassen) was hired, there was someone from the council who went to Shannon, actually offered him the job and negotiated a salary with him before the council ever met to determine who they were going to offer the position to," Johnson said.

She refused to name the council member she was referring to.

"It was a long time ago, and it doesn't even matter anymore," she said. "But it was wrong. And they didn't have the right to go and have that conversation with Shannon privately before even having a council meeting with him."

At the Ways and Means meeting, Johnson accused council members of not completing a performance review she alleged they were supposed to take care of in May. Mayor Wayne Melbye insisted the council had already reviewed the administrator's work before asking Johnson where she had gotten her information.

The problem instead lay with the housing and economic development authority, he added, not Stassen.


"I've asked them to meet with us. They never have," he said. "And so we're trying to rectify that.
There are things going on, and you coming in and pointing bullets like that, I don't know why you didn't come to me and talk to me directly."

Melbye did not respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Stassen said he stood by his Tuesday night comments.

"Rather than discuss negativity, city staff will continue to focus on all the positive things happening in Crookston such as being one of the safest and most affordable cities in Minnesota," he wrote in an email. "We are debt free and have worked hard to limit tax increases while providing a great quality of life."

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