West St. Paul mayor claims to be target of harassment, sexism

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After a fiery City Council meeting, the West St. Paul mayor says she has become a target of harassment and sexism.

Tuesday, there was a special City Council meeting called in an attempt to resolve the situation that sparked all of this, but the council didn't have a quorum. 

“It was a small political brushfire that turned in to the city burning down,” said Council member Anthony Fernandez. 

That so-called brushfire erupted at the West St. Paul City Council meeting on April 23. 

“This will not be forgotten folks,” said Mayor Jenny Halverson at the meeting. 

“That is inappropriate Madam Mayor,” Councilmember John Bellows responded.

“No yours is inappropriate!” said a member of the audience. 

Moments before that heated exchange, the council approved two planning commission appointments by Mayor Jenny Halverson, but denied her third choice. All her choices happened to be women. 

“We need to consider the broader scope here and while I appreciate the mayor’s desire to have more women involved in city government, I don’t think that should be the determining factor,” said Council member Bellows at the meeting.

“It is not taken lightly by me that when there was someone else in this chair, you were lobbying for his ability of privilege to appoint and that should be his prerogative,” said Halverson at the meeting. “But now that it’s me sitting here, that’s not the position.”

The applicant, Samantha Green, has now withdrawn her application because she wants the council to face the same public scrutiny at a regularly scheduled meeting, as she did. 

“I want to make it very clear, I am qualified for this position,” said Green. 

Green believes the vote was personal, based on her criticism of the council in the past. The next day, Green found a box of tissues placed outside her home and Mayor Halverson found a box of feminine pads. Both also reported to police someone banging on their doors at various times of day and night. 

“What was particularly disturbing is knowing there were people that close to us, that close to my kids my family, that was really disturbing, besides the message they were trying to send,” said Mayor Halverson. 

Council member Fernandez is also disturbed by the harassing items found outside Green and Mayor Halverson's homes, but does not agree the four no votes, including his, were sexist. 

He says it was an attempt to help pave the way for a planning commissioner who wanted to be reinstated. 

“I made a bad decision,” said Fernandez. “I made the wrong decision and I think more elected officials need to have a little more humility in their decision making and realize when they are wrong.”

Now, Green has organized a collection for feminine products to be donated. But both Green and Mayor Halverson say they look forward to further discussion and something good coming out of an ugly situation. A fundraising page has already topped $1,700. A lot of people are expected to bring feminine products to be donated to the May 14 City Council meeting. 

“I’ve been the only one there for nearly six years and to finally feel this community stand up and get in engaged, it’s amazing it’s wonderful,” said Mayor Halverson.