Council votes to censure Batesole
An issue that's been simmering for years came to a head Monday night when the Alexandria City Council voted to censure Ward 1 council member Virgil Batesole.
The action doesn't remove Batesole's authority to vote or speak at meetings, but it's a way for the council to show it does not condone his behavior, which two council members, Todd Jensen and Bobbie Osterberg, described as disrespectful and creating chaos.
The motion was approved on a 4-1 vote. Bob Kuhlman voted against it. Batesole mistakenly voted for it because, as he later told the newspaper, he thought Kuhlman had made a motion to censure Jensen. Dave Benson also voted for the action.
Batesole didn't address any of the claims while the censure discussion was taking place.
At past meetings, Batesole, who has served on the council since 2011, has repeatedly questioned the mayor's authority, challenged council decisions that he said violated the city's charter, refused to attend meetings of a committee he was appointed to, and has been at the center of several angry outbursts.
"The motion to censure is a big deal," said Osterberg, who made the motion. "We are saying we have lost confidence in Mr. Batesole's ability to function as a trusted member of this group with the integrity and credibility required to serve our neighbors and city."
Osterberg added that not censuring Batesole would be akin to "letting an unruly child continue their bad, unacceptable behavior."
Kuhlman said that if the council was going to censure Batesole, it should also censure Jensen for making "personal threats" against him and Batesole at past meetings after the council had adjourned.
Jensen denied making the threats.
"The only personal attacks I have seen are those such as when council member Batesole stands up during a council meeting and yells at the mayor that she has no authority," he said. "Or when both of you sat at a League of Minnesota Cities event and complained to the mayor of another community how bad we have it in Alexandria because of what a terrible mayor we have, or my personal favorite, when the two of you sat in the counseling session we had regarding this motion of censure and admitted being complicit in a personal attack of me."
Jensen said Kuhlman made the claims of personal attack because "you want to drag us down into the mud with you. I've regrettably played into that in the past. I won't be a party to that any more."
The council first made a motion to censure Batesole in March but Mayor Sara Carlson decided in June to put the issue on hold. She arranged a meeting with a team-building expert to help the council work through the issues, but according to Jensen and Osterberg, nothing changed.
Jensen said he didn't want to give a long list of issues the council has discussed with Batesole. "I believe that anyone who's attended a council meeting, watched it on television or read about it in the newspaper has a clear view of what we've had to deal with," he said.
Osterberg said Batesole is an enigma. She said he exercised bad judgment in public and private forums and has not been honest. She said Batesole has stated that his motivation for being a member of the council is to protect his personal interests.
"He personifies the classic definition of a bully," Osterberg said.
Without citing details, both Jensen and Osterberg said that Batesole's behavior at an emergency management training session at the fire station last week showed that he still disrespects the mayor and other council members.
"I don't believe he will treat any of us different in the future," Jensen said, "and I have lost complete faith in his ability to work as a productive member of this council."
Osterberg also said she doesn't expect Batesole to change. "That would be asking too much because he believes he's always right and there is no need," she said. "So the citizens of Alexandria should expect to see more of the same and in fact, it may be heightened as he looks for ways to retaliate against this action."