Mayor Dennis Egan told the Star Tribune that while he believes he could have legally continued to serve as mayor while working as executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council, he would step down April 1 because the lobbyist job had become a distraction.
“I believe that a mayor must live to a higher standard than just avoiding conflicts of interest,” Egan said. “If a mayor’s activities serve as a distraction or roadblock for the city, the public is not well-served.”
Since Egan insisted weeks ago that he could ethically hold both jobs, he has faced a recall effort and a City Council investigation into details of when he started consulting for mining companies, how much he was earning, and what his contract said. The council will now drop its effort to investigate, said City Council member Petty Rehder.
“I think it is the right decision,” Rehder said of Egan’s resignation. “I just think it is unfortunate that it took this long.”
Rehder said a special election for Egan’s replacement will be discussed Monday.
Egan, who gets paid $9,800 a year as the city’s mayor, is a longtime professional lobbyist and political consultant. He told the City Council it was unfair that he be asked to either abandon a client or quit as mayor. He had said that he would recuse himself if frack sand matters came up at City Hall.
Last week, the frack sand issue came up at the state Capitol. Rehder told a joint Senate and House committee that the state should adopt a moratorium on new frack sand developments until a comprehensive environmental review could be conducted. Egan wasn’t present, but the sand council opposed Rehder’s positition.
“And he (Egan) still says he has no conflict?” Rehder said Saturday.
Red Wing resident Dale Hanson, who wanted to launch an effort to recall Egan, said he was grateful Egan chose to resign, but he believes the city should still investigate “to ensure that if there was corruption, ethics violations, or other vital issues that we have an accurate sense of how much damage may have been done.”
Demand for silica sand is high because it’s used in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that produces oil and gas. Red Wing is in the heart of fracking territory.