Following weeks of bickering, East Bethel sets policy on expenses

Following several council meetings filled with flaring tempers and bickering – primarily between Councilmembers Heidi Moegerle and Bob DeRoche – the East Bethel City Council Sept. 18 directed city staff to prepare a draft policy establishing that councilmember expenses must be pre-approved.

DeRoche has repeatedly criticized Moegerle for requesting mileage reimbursement after having attended meetings of outside organizations that he implies were secretly attended for her own benefit.

Moegerle, however, insists that her attendance at meetings of groups like the League of Minnesota Cities and Local Government Officials is solely for the benefit of the city of East Bethel, as she gains valuable information there that she can bring back to the city.

She insists she has never tried to be secretive about attending such meetings, and that she always notifies Mayor Richard Lawrence and City Administrator Jack Davis beforehand.

In return, Moegerle has criticized DeRoche for directing city staff to print out paper council packets for him before each council meeting, rather than relying on the electronic packet versions council members can view on the $800 laptops the city provided the council with in January of this year.

She says the whole point of providing the council with the laptops and software was to save the city money on staff time, paper and ink, and that requesting the paper packets is not benefiting the city.

“When I listen to how this goes on, and on, and on, the good-guy bad-guy kind of stuff … what’s the value of this to the city,” Councilmember Tom Ronning said.

The city is struggling with serious financial issues, he said.

“This packet means crap to me,” Ronning said. “And so does the computer. If you want it, you can have it … I really have gotten to the point that we’ve got much more serious things to talk about than what we’ve been doing.”

Ronning later acknowledged that he has also taken part in the same type of back-and-forth that he just criticized, adding that Councilmember Ron Koller is the only one who has not.