ROOSEVELT, Minn.-A Roosevelt City Council member who allegedly threatened a reporter during a public meeting was charged with disorderly conduct Monday, Oct. 22, said Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust.
Arlyn Stewart allegedly stood over reporter Doris Knutson, from Baudette's weekly Northern Light Region newspaper, and berated her during an Oct. 1 meeting after she questioned the council for holding a meeting without public notification. He then immediately adjourned the meeting.
He has not responded to more than a half-dozen attempts for comment or requests for assistance with open records requests. Roosevelt has been without a mayor for more than a year, and former City Clerk Alyce Siats said Stewart has unofficially stepped into the role.
Gerald Landby, who is running for Roosevelt mayor, said Arlyn approached Knutson "like a grizzly bear would do a bluff charge," according to court documents.
Stewart told deputies he was over two feet away from Knutson and alleged she was interrupting the meeting, according to court documents.
Knutson said the council held a special meeting in mid-September without public notice. Minnesota state law requires government bodies to post notice of meetings at least three days in advance or publish notice in a newspaper. Attempts must be made to contact any parties who have notified the body they wish to be notified. Knutson said the Northern Light Region had asked to be informed, but she was not contacted about the meeting.
When she pressed the council about the legality of the meeting, Siats swore at her. Siats told the Herald she "blew her temper" and said "I'm so g**damn sick and tired of this bull****."
Siats said she posted her resignation several months ago and planned to finish the part-time city clerk position at the end of the month. She said she decided to quit early because of the last meeting.
Knutson called the Northern Lights Region's publishers after the meeting and helped file a report with the Roseau County Sheriff's Office. Stewart was charged Monday, Gust said.
Knutson has been covering the small town for over a year because readers told her about rumors of dysfunction. She said members are short-tempered and have screamed at citizens during meetings, and the council disregards open meeting laws. Knutson said the council was unable to produce financial records for the past eight years.
The council has not responded to an open records request sent over two weeks ago asking for copies of financial records, emails between council members concerning Knutson, and the Oct. 1 meeting minutes.
Siats said records requests could be referred to Stewart, but he has not responded to messages.
Knutson said several council members asked her why she was at the meeting and who invited her to attend after it had adjourned.
Rollin and Julie Bergman, publishers of the Northern Light Region, said they are considering filing a lawsuit against the city for the open meeting violation. They sent a letter to the city's attorney Oct. 15 and spoke with the lawyer last week but said Monday they had not heard a response.
"We would prefer to solve this amicably," they wrote. "We would like to see a formal, written apology from both the City Clerk and Councilman Stewart to our reporter, Doris Knutson. We also ask that the Roosevelt City Council, in writing, assure us that they will follow the Minnesota Open Meeting Law in the future."
The letter also calls for Stewart's resignation if he is charged with assault. Three of the four council members are up for re-election, but Stewart's term does not end for two more years.
The maximum charge for the misdemeanor charge is 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, Gust said.