Rochester council member has been recording conversations with Mayor, city officials, without their knowledge

(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Mayor Kim Norton has pulled back on having one-on-one meetings with council member Molly Dennis.

Norton has said she feels trust has been lost after finding out Dennis had been recording their private conversations without her knowledge.

“Recent communications from you have been demanding and sometimes hostile (despite the warm salutations) and your seemingly endless allegations against your colleagues, me, and city leadership, rather than on city business, is not beneficial to me or the community. Additionally, your continued litigation threat against the City makes all of those topics untenable,” Mayor Norton wrote in an email to Council Member Dennis which Norton confirmed.

Norton was not the only person she was recording in private conversations, according to Dennis. She had also been recording City Administrator Alison Zelms, City Attorney Michael Spindler-Krage, and fellow Council member Kelly Kirkpatrick. Dennis claimed Kirkpatrick knew their conversations were being recorded, but Kirkpatrick said she had no recollection of any conversations where Dennis told her that they were being recorded.

Dennis has claimed making these recording is all about transparency with her constituents and “to protect herself legally.”

“I think the act of recording conversations when it comes to situations where someone has a history of not telling the truth to me or has made up allegations,” said Dennis.

For Mayor Norton, this was another breach of trust in a relationship that has been deteriorating over time.

“It feels horrible,” Norton said. “There are many things that are legal but they’re not moral, they don’t build trust, they don’t build relationships and this is one of them. I would never record a conversation with someone unless I told them. It’s hurtful, it feels dishonest and I know council member Dennis talks often about transparency and trust. Well, transparency isn’t privately tape recording something.”

Norton has made monthly meetings with council members an open option for all of them since she was sworn into office in 2019. Not all council members take Norton up on these meetings though, as they don’t always have time in their schedules.

Another council member that has taken Norton up on these members is Patrick Keane, who said that he sees them as a productive way to discuss city-related issues that he and the mayor may not always have time to right before or during council meetings.

Dennis had taken Norton up on these meetings, but following her censure by the council on March 7, the majority of their discussions always focused on the censure and not city-related issues, according to Norton.

“The meetings had devolved into unproductive conversation centered around the censure. We just couldn’t seem to get off that in order to talk about business,” said Norton.

Norton has said that the censure does not relate to city business but Dennis disagrees.

“A lot of residents are very interested in hearing some of the reasons Mayor Norton has said the things she did to the private investigator that the city hired,” said Dennis,

Norton has said she is open to making these meetings available to Dennis once again, but Dennis needs to show signs of focusing on city-related issues and not the censure.