Council takes no action on Berg

Veteran Bayport administrator leaves post Saturday

Bayport LogoBAYPORT — The City Council closed its investigation of suspended City Administrator Mitch Berg Thursday, setting the stage for Berg’s exit from the post Saturday.

During a brief 15-minute special meeting at City Hall, the council voted to close its inquiry into a complaint against Berg by an unnamed city employee, take no further action in the case and send Berg a letter explaining the council’s actions.
“Disappointing,” said Mayor Susan St. Ores about the situation. “It’s disappointing behavior for someone in his position.”

“I, personally, would rather move forward and be done with it,” added Councilwoman Connie Carlson.

But the issue might not be over. Berg attended the meeting with his attorney, Jordan Stockberger, and said afterwards that his attorney will investigate the allegations that led to Berg’s being placed on administrative leave by the council Jan. 17.

“I was never given any clear context of what the complaint was. I really was still unsure what was going on,” he said after the meeting. “I retained an attorney even prior to my suspension. We will continue our investigation of the city.”

The council could have discussed its investigation of Berg in a closed meeting under state law. However, Berg asked for a public meeting.

“The subject of the meeting is the city administrator and has has requested the meeting be open,” said City Attorney Andy Pratt.

Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Nodes told the council that her investigation included claims by other city employees of of unprofessional conduct by Berg besides the original complaint.

Nodes said the employee who made the initial complaint claimed Berg said he would support legislation sought by the city on a water quality issue while employed, but would oppose the legislation if he lost his job.

Nodes said Berg denied making the statement at a Jan. 25 meeting and she added no one else witnessed the statement.

The investigation also turned up other instances in which city employees claim Berg made disparaging comments about the council and to other employees and made city staff feel uncomfortable, according to Nodes.

However, because Berg submitted his resignation Dec. 20 to take effect Saturday, Nodes recommended the council close its investigation of Berg.

“While a number of statements made to staff were unprofessional, (they) were made under pressure,” Nodes said. “The fact he resigned this Saturday makes this moot.”
Berg said several events following his December resignation letter, among them the Dec. 22 death of Councilman Mark Ostertag, led Berg to send his Jan. 17 letter to the council rescinding his resignation.

“An outpouring of residents asked me to stay. However, I was shocked to find out, during the week, the council had met on Jan. 14, of which I was not asked to attend, and you called for me to leave on Jan. 17,” he said.

Berg said the allegations surprised him since he felt he he had a good relationship with city staff.

“The relationship I had with the staff, I feel that is the best staff I worked with. They were professional,” he said.

“I really enjoyed working with the residents of Bayport,” he continued. “I’m just as frustrated as anyone that the situation has come to this. That’s the nature of politics in some cities. The community needs to move in a more positive direction. The death of (Mark) Ostertag was a blow to the community. The outcome is what it is. My desire for the city of Bayport is to move forward.”

Berg said his plans are simple after his tenure with the city ends Saturday.
“I’m going to take some time off. I’m going to take a vacation,” he said.