The Alexandria City Council voted to talk about allegations made against Ward 5 council member and mayoral candidate Todd Jensen during its next work session on Monday, Oct. 26.
Roger Thalman made the motion after a heated exchange took place at the end of Monday night’s meeting between Jensen and Mayor Sara Carlson, who is not running for reelection.
It began after Carlson asked City Attorney Tom Jacobson to weigh in on the accusations that were made against Jensen during the public comment period at the start of the meeting.
Jacobson said that the five council members and the mayor are in a “tough spot” following all the accusations that have been made at the last three meetings. He added that nothing has really changed, however, since Jensen has still refused to meet with the mayor and Jacobson in private, which is the first step in resolving such disputes in the city’s code of conduct.
Jacobson said the next option is for the council to determine if the allegations against Jensen are something it should look into more closely during a public meeting.
Jensen said he and his supporters are being attacked by a Facebook group, The Truth About Todd, which is operated by his estranged daughter, Allisen Merill. He said the group posted private photos, address and contact information of one of his supporters, which he said he reported to the police department.
Jensen said after the last council meeting, he received dozens of unsolicited texts and emails from websites he never signed up to receive.
When Mayor Carlson asked Jensen to address the issue at hand, why he refused to meet in private to discuss the allegations, Jensen told her to “quit trying to hide things from the public” and said that she and council member Bobbie Osterberg, who is also running for mayor, were using the allegations to campaign against him. He said he reported the incidents to the state as a campaign violation.
Jensen said he talked to an attorney who advised him not to meet privately with the mayor and Jacobson because there was no “actionable information” that could be used against him.
Thalman said it was time to “get to the bottom of it” by talking about the complaints at a work session. Bill Franzen seconded the motion, noting that it would show the public that the council is doing something about the complaints.
Dave Benson said the council should resolve the issue one way or another. He said he’s been approached by many residents asking him “what the heck is going on” with the council. “We need to get it straightened out,” Benson said.
The council voted 4-0 to look into the issue at its next work session. Jensen abstained.
During the public comment period at the start of Monday’s meeting, four people focused on Jensen’s alleged angry and erratic behavior on social media and comments to the public away from City Council meetings. Shawn Olson of Alexandira said earlier this year in a Facebook group, Jensen told him to “crawl back under his rock” and accused him of being part of a socialist conspiracy dictatorship.
Olson said Jensen’s comments were unbecoming of someone holding a political office.
Merrill, speaking via Zoom for the third straight meeting, said Jensen is now blocking others he disagrees with from his Twitter account. She urged the council to develop an online policy that holds council members accountable for their actions.
Merrill, who lives in Brooklyn Center, also accused Jensen of retaliating against others by sharing privileged information, such as a constituent’s email address that was only supposed to be known to the council. She once again called for the council to censure Jensen.
Two people spoke in support of Jensen and took issue with how the council was handling the situation.
Jensen’s wife, Peggy, said she has been attacked in social media because of Merrill’s “war” against her husband. She questioned how the information on Merrill’s Facebook page is being vetted.
An Alexandria resident said the criticisms against Jensen have turned into a “public lynching” that the council should not allow. She said the accusations are an “embarrassment” that shows Alexandria is just like so many other divisive communities.