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Thief River Falls leader steps down after fight at City Hall

THIEF RIVER FALLS--One of the Thief River Falls City Council members involved in last week's fight with other civic leaders at City Hall has resigned.

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THIEF RIVER FALLS-One of the Thief River Falls City Council members involved in last week's fight with other civic leaders at City Hall has resigned.

Josh Hagen spoke briefly Tuesday at the beginning of the council's meeting before saying he would resign effective immediately. His sudden departure comes a week after an argument during an Administrative Services Committee meeting led to a physical altercation involving punches and a chair.

"I would like to apologize to the people of Thief River Falls for my part in any arguing over the years," Hagen said. "I could have done better. I will not apologize for defending myself against personal attacks, public attacks or physical attacks."

Hagen walked out of City Hall after his three-minute speech, but not before accusing Mayor Brian Holmer and others of verbally attacking him and online bullying.

"Most of these attacks have happened under your watch," Hagen said of Holmer.

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Hagen previously told the Herald fellow council member Gerald Brown attacked him with a chair during an argument that broke out July 10 at City Hall. Hagen claimed Brown and council member Curt Howe threatened Hagen during the committee meeting. Hagen also said Brown was the first to push Hagen. Hagen said he returned the shove, forcing Brown to the ground.

That's when Brown grabbed a chair and swung it at Hagen, Hagen said. Hagen said he hit Brown, and Howe took a swing at Hagen.

Howe denied those allegations, saying he was trying to help break up the fight. Brown declined Tuesday to comment on Hagen's accusations and the sudden resignation.

The Pennington County Attorney's Office is investigating possible criminal charges in the case.

Tuesday's council meeting was the first time the City Council met as a whole since the confrontation. In response to the altercation, the council unanimously passed a code of conduct for themselves, something that didn't exist before Tuesday's meeting. It lays out roles and responsibilities for council members, as well as how the city leaders should treat each other during meetings and remedies for inappropriate behavior.

At most, the council can issue a letter of reprimand to members who display unbecoming conduct, Holmer said. Voters would have to decide if they want to recall a council member.

Hagen said he previously asked for time off for medical reasons, but he claimed Holmer and others attacked him on social media for not attending meetings.

"If you have a problem, talk to me professionally face-to-face," Hagen said. "If you don't like my ideas, argue my ideas. You don't personally attack anyone for any reason."

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Holmer called Hagen's resignation "abrupt" and "unexpected." The mayor said he was unaware of allegations that he or other city leaders bullied Hagen.

"I think I run a fair meeting," Holmer said.

The Herald was unable to find the social media comments to which Hagen referred.

Hagen said his health has suffered in reason months-he suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, which has forced him to walk with a cane. He said he began having panic attacks because of his health comdition, but his time on the council made thwm worse.

Hagen had hoped he would get better, but he told the Herald after the meeting that hasn't happened. He previously said he would not seek re-election this year.

"In the end, my health comes first. I will be stepping down immediately," Hagen said before leaving the meeting.

The council unanimously accepted the resignation later in the meeting. Holmer said the city would look at its options in filling the empty seat.

Related Topics: THIEF RIVER FALLS
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