Tanya Velishek

Tanya Velishek became Jordan’s mayor in 2016. Velishek knew she always wanted to be a leader.

All individuals have the right to feel safe in their homes, public settings, or in any type of environment. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and their rights. The city of Jordan has had an unfortunate set of events that had led the council to make decisions with legal advisement to protect the city employees from a hostile work environment.

Everyone has the right of speech as well as the right of their opinion, but when it comes to slander, non-facts, and untrue statements, it can persuade the community and others to believe a perspective that is not correct and cause false perceptions when individuals are providing ethical and moral decisions. Politics can slur these and be used to persuade individuals in believing what is wrong to be right.

To set the story straight on whether the council was provided a correct process for handling the harassment case against employees and a councilman: the city legal counsel had several complaints and then documented complaints that led to an immediate reaction from the personal committee.

The city policy was followed, which indicates “All employees are entitled to have a safe work environment free from interference, intimidation, hostility, or offensive behavior on part of supervisors, co-workers, or visitors arising from forced behaviors.”

Complaints are dealt with fairly and even-handedly with the dignity of all parties involved. The employee complaints were provided to legal directly, according to the policy and handled in a confidential manner. Legal counsel provided all of the investigation interviews to protect city employees and Councilman Jeff Will.

It clearly states in city policy if the complaint is about a council member, the personnel committee will be contacted by legal counsel and the personnel committee may meet with the complainant and/or other employees or review documents.

The key word is “may,” which in some cases, such as harassment and hostile work environment, a decision needs to be determined quickly for the sake of the individuals to feel safe in their work environment. A hostile work environment can be difficult to recognize because particular facts of each situation need to be determined whether offensive conduct has crossed the line.

Data presented from city legal counsel indicated in this case there was more than one incident from employees which crossed the line. The Department of Labor harassing policy which is how I based my decision during the initial investigation to protect the employees.

As council reviewed this case on March 18, the vote was to remove Will from one-on-one contact with staff and removal from the personnel committee. The direction from council was also to meet and provide him the opportunity to be interviewed. First priority is to protect employees. Legal counsel set up a meeting with the personnel committee and Will to provide him with the opportunity to determine his choice of interviewing members. Legal asked all questions during this meeting as the personnel committee listened. Legal followed a streamline of measures.

As mayor, I reached out to Minnesota League for legal support, reviewed the Department of Labor policies, as well as the mayor’s handbook, and questioned the legal counsel with due diligence. I hold all employees and individuals with respect, confidentiality, and will protect their dignity.

As council voted 6-0 to remove Will from the personnel committee and one-on-one contact, it was due to the findings during the investigation. My kind reminders of retaliation during the April 1 council meeting were due to questioning to staff and a communication. Legal counsel provided information and reviewed retaliation during all interviews.

Transparency

When council had to come back for a vote on April 1, the materials were presented to the council and personnel committee providing direction to make a vote. Will decided to send individual emails pleading that “a vote of removal is a vote that YOU support and agree with the mayor and some staff childish and immature personal animosity toward me, and frankly I have diminished their ability to serve and lead this council.”

This communication was made behind the scenes earlier that day to council except to me as mayor. This email communication in my opinion was an attempt at a serial meeting as intimidation.

As a professional and medical provider, the communication used exhibits that of displacement behavior. All individuals are responsible for their own behaviors. Displacement of an individual’s behaviors is due to high level of stress and anxiety which are displayed when an individual is being accused of known actions.

Most individuals are unaware of their actions and justify their harassing behaviors by saying “I don’t recall” or “This is how I grew up.” Moral and ethical individuals understand there is a fine line with their behaviors. Individuals who harass do not exhibit publicly but behind closed doors. These same individuals have known characteristics and engage in behaviors they feel are not subject to law.

I recommend to the voting citizen to view the facts. Was this attempt to persuade council with a backlash towards me as a woman or a mechanism to reinforce that women should not be in a position as mayor? Could this be retaliation toward the city employees? Is it better to leave this situation to be forgotten or would the citizens want to know from their elected leaders?

I have been slandered and my integrity has been questioned by recent decisions with the Cities Intersection Project where the council vote was 6-1, the council’s Robert’s Rules changes for decisions which were driven by the council members upon disagreements to provide a systemized voting, and recent questions about whether I manage a team of employees with a budget. I work for a large health organization in talent acquisition (human resources) as well as provide care to patients as a medical provider which works with many cultures.

As the mayor, I am open to discussion and welcome questions. To address the recent opinions or attacks on my character, there was question on decisions I make due to the relationships I have with city employees, the councilman or state partners whether I would be fair and equitable. My ethics, my training and education from 10-plus years from league city events; I know the process and when to remove myself from decisions.

My leadership or running the meetings is an important part of the role. I provide opportunity for all individuals, whether council or citizen, to have a voice and concern whether the public or I agree with their opinion. Public or individual opinion can be a good thing and it does not mean you need to agree but need to listen. This is a part of democracy and the public has the right to form their own opinion based on the facts.

I openly admit my downfall is to allow more time for individuals to speak candidly then individuals may like, but it is a fine line to gavel or be judged for not providing the citizen or council member the time needed to voice opinions. I follow the mayor’s guide on enforcing decorum and forums for public comment which our previous mayor and I discussed prior to his death.

At the end of the day, a councilman or mayor is never a private citizen. We are elected by our community, county, or state and need to remember that we are not a private citizen but we are a public official no matter what setting.

Individuals (councilman/councilwomen) are voted in to provide what is right for the community, create a positive atmosphere, manage the employees in a non-hostile environment, and collaborate efforts to ensure we provide the citizens with the facts while listening to their desires and needs. My efforts are to end this concern and move our community forward with the positive future.

Thank you Jordan for the opportunity to serve our community and I am proud to call this my home and raise my family.

Tanya Velishek is mayor of Jordan.

South regional editor

Deena is the regional editor for Shakopee, Jordan, Prior Lake and Savage and is passionate about uncovering the truth. Deena also enjoys gardening, playing tennis and up-cycling furniture.

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