Grand Marais City Hall entrance in downtown Grand Marais - Photo by Rhonda Silence
Rhonda Silence

Councilor retakes oath, another pledges integrity

As WTIP reported after the Jan. 13 Grand Marais city council meeting, Councilor Michael Garry created some controversy during the first few minutes of the meeting when he inserted a line about the president while taking the oath of office. See the related story here.

Following the line in which the oath-taker pledges to uphold the Constitution, Garry added, “Unlike my president.”

There was no mention of the addition to the oath during that January 13 council meeting, however, Councilor Garry sent an apology to his board colleagues and assured them he does take his position seriously.

Garry also spoke to WTIP Community Radio on January 15 and gave an apology on-air.

At that time, Garry said he would retake the oath of office at the next city council meeting.

However, a few minutes into the January 27 city meeting, it appeared that would not be the case. Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux noted that oath of office was the first item on the agenda. He asked City Administrator Mike Roth if that was just a carryover from last month. Roth said it was and the mayor began to move on to the next agenda item, the open forum.

Councilor Craig Schulte spoke up at that point, asking if the oath was to be repeated. He said he had heard from numerous members of the public, asking him if the oath would be repeated “properly.”

Councilor Garry said he would be “perfectly happy” to recite the oath again.

The council asked city attorney Chris Hood for his opinion. Attorney Hood said it is not necessary. Hood said if a person takes the oath and signs an affadavit, that is what it takes to be a councilor.

Despite the fact that it was considered legal by the city’s attorney, Garry again said he would like to properly recite the oath, which he did, with no additional language. He did not, as is normally the case while reciting the oath, raise his right hand.

The councilor appeared to all be on the same page regarding working together as the usual round robin councilor reports wrapped up. When it was her turn, Councilor Kelly Swearingen asked to share a letter she had written to her colleagues and the public. Swearingen read this prepared statement:

Fellow councilors, city staff, and citizens:
I want to make clear my intentions as a council member for our community.
I will be a member of a decision-making body that listens to all with respect and kindness. I will be honest and trustworthy of all those I encounter and have interactions with.
I want to work together towards being an all-inclusive community who will listen to differences and to seek to find common ground, knowing that together our differences can not only make us better, but stronger.
I will lead with integrity, honesty, openness, and grace.
I invite you to engage with me in this undertaking, and I welcome our conversations. I ask that we look to an individual’s heart and their intentions through their words and actions before judging what we may not know. That we can open up a conversation “seeking to understand, then to be understood.”
There will be times when I don’t get it right. And I hope you will allow me a chance to correct and set the ship straight again.
I ask, and I encourage that we all seek to be better today than we were yesterday and individually demonstrate how to “be the good” in our community.
Thank you very much.

Mayor Arrowsmith DeCoux thanked Swearingen for her “meaningful” words and new City Councilor Garry responded that he appreciated her comments as well.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence shares more in this report.