City of Wahkon

On Tues., Aug 20, the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs will be hosting a Regional State Leadership Day for elected officials from Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. And the City of Wahkon will be represented at this meeting, as they approved mayor Sandy Reichel’s attendance at a special meeting held Monday, July 29, along with an out-of-state travel policy regarding such travel by city officials.

The first item on the evening’s agenda was the travel policy. Pursuant to Minnesota Statute 471.661, statutory cities must adopt a policy regarding out-of-state travel by officials. The policy brought before the council defined appropriate travel and reimbursable expenses, which included “transportation, meals, lodging, registration fees, required materials, parking fees, and other reasonable and necessary city-related expenses.” A resolution instating the policy was approved by the council unanimously.

Discussion then turned to the invitation to the Regional State Leadership Day, which had been extended to all Minnesota mayors and county commissioners, according to an e-mail from the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs detailing the invitation in the council packet. Reichel said that she had spoken with Mille Lacs County Commissioner Dave Oslin who had previously attended and felt he benefited from it. Council member Tony Button stated, “I think we are all in agreement that the reason why we are here [at the special meeting] is we need to send [Mayor Reichel].”

To approve the trip for Reichel’s attendance, Roeschlein said, a budget for the trip’s cost would need to be set. The council discussed what the appropriate level of funding would be. Council member Kim Tyson said, “I know Sandy well enough to know she’s not going to spend the city’s money unjustifiably because she has to justify that to the citizens.” Tyson proposed $1,500 for travel expenses, but Button and council member Rick Roberts both said they felt this was too low. “She’ll be stranded out there,” Button joked. Tyson raised the suggestion to $2,000, the council approved it, Reichel abstaining.

The council then discussed a list of talking points, should Reichel have any opportunity to state her thoughts on local issues. The boundaries of the Mille Lacs Band Reservation were immediately brought up. “For me the problem has never been the tribal people or the Band,” Reichel stated. “The problem for me is the federal Indian policy. It’s so unaccountable. It’s racist, basically. That’s my opinion on our local issues, and it has got to be someone other than the fox guarding the hen house looking at it.”

“We will have our day in court,” Reichel said. “And if all the information is looked at–the chain of all the events and all the paperwork that goes all the way back–I believe we will prevail.”

As this conversation on the reservation boundary drew to a close, Reichel said that the city’s major issues had been covered, and the city could also look into documentation on the issue from the county and the people, as Reichel put it, “who have been fighting the good fight.” Button added that a list of case numbers and letters on the issue could also be included.

“Once we have everything is all together,” Button said, “we can review it.” The council agreed that this material could be reviewed at the next city council meeting, which will be held Monday, Aug. 12, prior to the Regional State Leadership Day.

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