Jensen's conduct again dominates Alexandria City Council's public comment period

Even a Douglas County commissioner, Charlie Meyer, got into the fray.

Todd Jensen

More accusations flew at Monday night’s Alexandria City Council meeting – once again toward mayoral candidate and council member Todd Jensen’s allegedly erratic behavior, along with allegations that Mayor Sara Carlson and council member Bobbie Osterberg are trying to influence the election.

Even a Douglas County commissioner, Charlie Meyer, got into the fray.

“You guys got to know better – you can’t run a campaign at a public council meeting,” Meyer said. “Let’s get it together. This is a joke.”

Mayor Carlson told Meyer that the comments about Jensen were made during a public comment period and were taken under advisement, which is the proper protocol under the city’s code of conduct.

Monday’s accusations once again began during the public comment period when Jensen’s wife, Peggy Jensen, said it was “absolutely disgusting” that Carlson allowed “personal attacks” against her husband from their estranged daughter, Allisen Merrill of Brooklyn Park, at the Sept. 14 council meeting.


Peggy Jensen said that her husband, after serving eight years on the council, most of it as mayor pro tem, was the victim of “blatantly political tampering” from the mayor and Osterberg. She said Merrill’s negative comments about Todd Jensen were posted on Osterberg’s campaign site.

After Peggy Jensen’s remarks, Carlson said she disagreed with her statements but added the council doesn’t make comments during the public comment part of the meeting.

Merrill also spoke, emphasizing some of the same concerns she made at the Sept. 14 meeting, that police reports indicate that Todd Jensen has exhibited angry and disrespectful behavior toward local residents, such as yelling, belittling, using profanity and making them feel unsafe.

She added that since her initial comments, Todd and Peggy Jensen retaliated by filing a restraining order against her but were denied and a court date was set for Oct. 26.

Merrill said she found another police report from this past January that said Todd Jensen could be heard yelling at the owner of his previous commercial rental for five minutes.

Merrill again urged the council to uphold its code of conduct and censure Jensen for his behavior.

“Failure to censure states that you hold confidence in him and you support what he puts out online and in person,” she said. “Is that the message you want to send to your citizens?”

Later in the meeting, City Attorney Tom Jacobson said that Carlson and the council didn’t do anything unlawful by allowing Merrill to speak. He added that denying her that opportunity would have been a violation of freedom of speech rights.


Jacobson, quoting Supreme Court Justice William Brennan from a landmark case, New York Times vs. Sullivan, said that the court has long held that debate on public issues should be “uninhibited, robust, and wide open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

Jacobson emphasized that the council has not taken any action to censure Jensen. The council, he said, is just trying to get to the next step in its code of conduct process by meeting privately with Jensen to talk about the allegations.

In a Sept. 24 email to Jensen to try to arrange a meeting, Jacobson disagreed with one of Jensen’s concerns that Merrill shouldn’t have been allowed to speak at the council meeting because she’s not an Alexandria resident or taxpayer.

“There is nothing in the code of conduct that says it does not apply to a council member’s or mayor’s interactions with non-residents, and the city council has never used residency as a qualification for speaking during the public comment period,” Jacobson said.

In his email response, Jensen said that at this point, he sees no reason to comply with the meeting request.

“The comments made by Ms. Merrill were regarding an issue that resulted in no charges,” Jensen said. “The (police) report merely indicated what the officer was told by the parties. The officer indicated to both myself and my son that even if the allegations made by the other party were true, there was no criminal offense to charge out.”

When asked for a comment, Mayor Carlson issued a brief statement: “We have a wonderful city that prides itself on providing first-class service for its citizens, keeping its community safe and being civil and respectful to everyone. We have a code of conduct, as well as an ethics policy for elected officials. To that end, we will use that code of conduct to continue to try and meet privately with Mr. Jensen to resolve this issue.”


Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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