7/10/2020 1:57:00 PM K.O. Days Ambassador program marred by free speech dispute; advisor let go, four ambassador candidates out
Lindstrom City Council members David Waldoch and Katie Roche called a special meeting of the city council Tuesday afternoon this week, under rules that grant the mayor or two members the authority to convene a session.
The issue was an ever-expanding controversy behind four ambassadors leaving, or ousted from, the Karl Oskar Days program. The four filed an “appeal” to overturn a decision by the program advisor they say forced them to give up their right to free speech.
Depending on which version -- either that the four girls were forced to step down by the program advisor or they chose to depart-- the problem arose from Facebook posts the four teens put up supporting basic civil rights.
The advisor for the program Lisa Lajoye, was let go by the city on June 8.
Over the last few weeks the community grew more and more involved.
Council member Roche said she didn’t even know the four girls impacted by the inappropriate program advisor’s actions, but the girls wanted to be allowed back into the Karl Oskar tent.
Mayor Kevin Stenson commented he too had been contacted about the whole situation.
The “coronation” of three finalists was to happen this Sunday and if the four girls were going to be reinstated now was the time.
The online special council meeting had about a dozen people weigh in on the veracity of the circumstances and whether the four were legitimately due some consideration.
One caller pointed out that the community wants to see this handled in a dignified manner. He told the council if the concept behind the Ambassador program is to have the girls represent the town, then the city has to stand up for the girls.
By virtue of the fact that advisor Lajoye was fired, it speaks to poor behavior and unnecessary intervention by the advisor, he added. The girls were standing strong by their values and the city should do likewise.
Member Waldoch made a motion after about an hour of debate and public input, to extend full program participation to the four and acknowledge city responsibility in this matter.
The motion lost with just Waldoch and Roche in favor.
Council member Roche first sought to amend the motion by delaying this weekend’s event and re-tooling the coronation, but there are judges, and other logistics involved and this was rejected.
Waldoch put forward a second motion not reinstating the four candidates but to simply grant them the scholarship funding all 14 girls were slated to receive. Plus the city will provide a formal apology.
This was okayed by 5-0 vote.
Many comments had advised that the program is in need of restructuring and clearer understanding of duties and what is and isn’t expected of candidates.
Karl Oskar Days Celebration Director Pauline Hinsch attended the special meeting and said this is already underway.
In support of their request to be allowed back in, the Ambassador candidates said they were forced out, given an ultimatum by Lajoye and were told by her the city council is solid behind her decision to have them go. The appeal wasn’t filed until city staff upheld the advisor ouster/candidate resignation after reconsidering June 24 in an in-house review.
Council member Roche apparently informed them of this appeal process.
One parent of a still-participating candidate said the girls who remained with the program are doing just as much to promote civil rights and support the philosophy of helping people and equality as the Facebook posts ever could.