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Kettle River councilmember claims city administrator changed ordinance just to fine her $6,000

Kettle River city councilmember threatens to press harassment charges against city administrator
Kettle River city councilmember threatens to press harassment charges against city administrator 02:57

KETTLE RIVER, Minn. — A small Minnesota town is dealing with some big problems. A city councilwoman is threatening to press harassment charges against the city administrator.

According to the councilwoman, the administrator purposely changed a city ordinance in order to fine her nearly $6,000.

Monique Doward has been on the city council since 2021. She said the city clerk sent her a copy of the general regulations, highlighting a section indicating no animals are allowed to be free range. Doward said that confused her, so she went back online, looked at the 2021 version of these ordinances, and found the original regulation. The line about free-range animals wasn't there. 

Doward is not a native Minnesotan; she moved to Kettle River after a hurricane destroyed her home in Florida. She thought a good way to acclimate herself was to run for an open seat on the city council. She ran unopposed.

"Just because I had become a Red Cross volunteer and I liked to get to know people, I figure if I'm going to move somewhere, this is a small town, let me jump in," she said.

She didn't expect notices and fines for keeping free-range chickens, even though it was legal. She claims it's part of a pattern of what she calls harassment against her by city officials.

"That's not what I expected. They don't treat the others like that. I'm hurt because I thought I was going to come make a difference," Doward said.

WCCO contacted the other three council members and stopped by the city hall, which was closed. A man nearby, who at first didn't identify himself, turned out to be the mayor. He later apologized though, and explained in an emailed statement that the council met in closed session and agreed to suspend the clerk for five days without pay and to cancel a planned pay raise. The clerk, he said, fessed up to changing the ordinance, and then wrote her an apology to Doward, the council, and Kettle River.

As for Doward's other claims, the mayor denied the accusations but added the council is working with a conflict resolution consultant. 

Moving forward, the mayor said, "I expect that we are all open and honest with one another as a council and working together for the best interest of the city of Kettle River."

WCCO reached out to the clerk on the phone; they did not offer comment. 

Doward hopes the city can move on from the drama. The other city council members did not respond to WCCO's messages.

Both Doward and the mayor said the ordinance case has been referred to the county sheriff for further investigation to determine if any state laws were broken.

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