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Trailblazer board continues to debate workplace issues

Contentious and heated discussion continued Thursday morning regarding Trailblazer Transit’s workplace environment, with allegations of micro-managing, violations of the Minnesota open meeting law and whether Executive Director Gary Ludwig was following the directions given earlier this summer in a letter of reprimand.
The heated discussion often resulted in raised voices among members of the Trailblazer Transit Joint Powers Board.
Jack Russek of Delano, who represents Wright County Area Transportation (WCAT) on the joint powers board, passed around a letter from an attorney addressing whether or not the board violated the open meeting law in a recent closed session to evaluate Ludwig’s job performance.
“I have a problem with the way some things have been going on,” said Russek, as he handed out the letter.
Russek said that Ludwig requested that his evaluation be open to the public, but that the board voted to close the meeting.
Other board members said they were unaware that Ludwig had asked for an open evaluation.
Russek said the attorney’s letter is to “remind us of what is legal and what’s not, and what we’ve done is not right.”
Russek also urged the board to “forget the whole thing and move on.”
Russek said that the Trailblazer mission should be to ensure quality service to its clients, not to micro-manage its employees.
A representative from Buffalo, which is one of the member cities of WCAT, said his city also was concerned that the joint powers board was doing too much micro-managing.
Doug Krueger, one of McLeod County’s representatives on the joint powers board, said that it was the board’s responsibility to step in when things aren’t going well.
“It’s our job to micro-manage if there are things going on,” said Krueger. He pointed to a pile of letters that he said were complaints and concerns about Trailblazer. “When I get these, it’s my duty to pursue an answer.”
Jim Swanson, one of Sibley County’s representatives on the board, said the joint powers board was trying to address issues that started in 2001, and these were not recent issues.
Ron Shimanski, the joint powers board chairman and one of McLeod County’s representatives, noted that the board has put into place a management team that he thinks will help. He asked Beverly Herfindahl of the Minnesota Department of Transportation if the hiring of a human resources director and an additional operations manager will help.
“Additional staff will indeed help,” said Herfindahl. “It will make a big difference in what is happening.”

For more from the meeting, see the July 27 print edition of The Chronicle.