Outside investigation to follow councilmember Dennis’ censure

(ABC 6 News) – Monday, the Rochester City council will hold its first meeting since the formal censure of Ward 6 councilmember Molly Dennis.

The city of Rochester has provided additional information about strained interactions between city staff and city councilmember Molly Dennis.

This comes after Ward 6 councilmember Molly Dennis was censured during its council meeting on March 6.

RELATED: Rochester City Council formally censures Ward 6 Councilmember Molly Dennis

The formal censure does not mean removal of Dennis from the council board, but instead, a formal disagreement with her behavior.

The censure notes that Councilmember Molly Dennis’s conduct and interaction with fellow elected officials and City staff have been an ongoing and persistent concern.

Particularly referencing elevated and unproductive behavior that was evident during and after the February 27, 2023 City council study session.

Councilmember Dennis claims the city’s censure is discrimination and retaliation.

The city, in response released another long list of complaints against Dennis but also said they’re bringing in an outside party to investigate her concerns.

“The City of Rochester received communications from Council Member Dennis to the City Attorney and other Council Members alleging that the City discriminated and retaliated against her when it censured her on Monday, March 6. Council Member Dennis’s concerns includes allegations against City employees and public officials, as defined by the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA). Under the MGDPA, the existence and status of her concerns are public but all other personnel data is private data on individuals, except as specifically defined in the MGDPA.

The City is committed to providing access to its facilities and services to all Rochester community members and visitors regardless of background, status, or disability, and it takes allegations of discrimination and retaliation seriously.

In response to CM Dennis’ allegations, the City will be engaging an outside investigator to conduct a neutral and independent investigation of CM Dennis’s concerns. I have separately notified CM Dennis regarding the investigation and next steps.

Attorney Spindler-Krage

Below is a statement from Administrator Alison Zelms.

But still, not all councilmembers agree with the censure.

Councilmember Kelly Kirkpatrick apologized to Dennis in the meeting Monday evening, saying that if she had more time before the censure resolution vote on March 6, she would tried to amend her vote.

“I’m sorry Molly, I think this was unfair. I recognized later that the resolution suggests that all city staff and all city council members have experienced the same concerns with councilmember Dennis. I know they have not,” Kirkpatrick said

This document below from the city provides specific examples of items referenced in the March 6, 2023 Censure Resolution.

Some members of the public took the time to share their thoughts on the censure in open comment period during Monday’s council meeting.

“You need to reverse that immediately. Today. That’s what you need to do. It doesn’t erase what you did, which is shameful anyway.”

City Administrator Zelms said that she’s still hopeful this censure will provide an opportunity for the council and city staff to reset and focus on the collective vision of the city.