RED WING -- The City Council censured one of its members Monday in response to the claim that he disclosed private data.
During the June 8 meeting, John Becker brought before the council the case of a Red Wing family whose manufactured house was filled with about six inches of sewage in November 2018. He explained that three parties were involved in deciding who was at fault. The parties -- Continental Communities, the company that owns Pepin Woods; Ryan Mechanical, who hired the city to work on the private sewage system at Pepin Woods; and the city of Red Wing -- were working to determine what percentage of the damages each organization would pay.
Becker said, “I think a very strong argument could be made that the city is 100% culpable in this situation.”
City Attorney Amy Mace sent an email to the City Council and Mayor Sean Dowse on June 19. Mace stated in part, “the city of Red Wing Code of Conduct provides that a council member will not disclose to the public information that was gained by reason of the person’s public position if the information was not public data.” She went on to write:
“There is one other rule in the code of conduct that may also have been implicated by Council Member Becker’s statements. The code of conduct prohibits using ‘the person's public position to secure special privileges or exemptions for the person or for others.' Although Council Member Becker did not use the confidential information to assist himself, someone could believe that he used his position as a council member so that the citizen could gain an advantage (or a special privilege) in settlement negotiations.”
Becker explained on Monday that he was OK with bringing the private information before the council during an open meeting because he wanted to see a resolution for the family that lost its home. Becker explained that like the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, he was creating “good trouble.”
The council had two options Monday, to either disapprove of Becker’s conduct or to censure it.
Council member Becky Norton made the motion to censure Becker and said, “You jeopardized that deal for that resident,” explaining that a proposed deal between the three organizations involved could have been pulled after Becker stated that the city should be fully responsible.
Norton added that Red Wing taxpayers would have been put on the line if the city covered 100% of the damages.
Five of seven members of the City Council voted to censure Becker. Kim Beise and Becker voted against the motion.
Becker represents Ward 2, which includes Pepin Woods.