Two Harbors city council calls special meeting to discuss mayor Chris Swanson

20 June 2022

DULUTH — The Two Harbors City Council has called a special meeting today to “discuss and consider addressing” concerns about its embattled mayor — who will face a recall election on the primary ballot in August.

Chris Swanson, in his second term as mayor of the city on the North Shore, has faced growing scrutiny in the past six months. Before last week’s city council meeting members of a family from the mayor’s hometown of Silver Bay, Minn., including Melissa Giles, asked to speak during the public comment period about Swanson.

“Last week we had two additional people request to be scheduled as appearances at tonight’s council meeting regarding the concerns raised by the Justice for Mark’s Drive Group,” council president Ben Redden said during the June 13 council meeting.

Redden did not specify the concerns, but “Justice for Mark’s Drive” has become a hashtag used by Giles, her family and supporters on Facebook and is a reference to the Silver Bay neighborhood where she and Swanson both lived.

“This group has made claims against Mayor Swanson and it is apparent that the claims being made focus on a time when Mayor Swanson did not hold public office in this city,” Redden said during the meeting.

He continued that the council came to a consensus that it was not city business. Since the council has already determined that the mayor will face a recall election, the speakers were pulled from the agenda.

Redden, who described it as “an extremely sensitive matter,” offered the chance for councilors to weigh in on whether the family members should be allowed to speak.

No one commented.

Swanson would not comment on the issue when he was asked during a break in the meeting to respond.

The discussion about Swanson is the only item listed on the agenda for the meeting at 5:15 p.m. today in City Council Chambers at Two Harbors City Hall.

According to the agenda: “The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and consider addressing concerns regarding Mayor Christopher Swanson.”

Redden would not elaborate on the details of the meeting and said he isn’t allowed to talk to media without the consent of the rest of the city council.

Swanson first gained attention with his proposal to build an underwater hotel in Lake Superior, then criticism shifted to the overlap between his personal businesses and his elected position — with city attorney Tim Costley offering the opinion that Swanson used his position for personal gain and violated the city’s communications policies.

Members of the grassroots group Resign or Recall, which has focused on what they believe are the mayor’s conflicts of interest, collected more than 500 signatures from residents who want to oust the mayor and the city council voted in late May to add the recall to the ballot.

At the time, Swanson was given the option to resign but didn’t take it.

“We’re taking on bigger projects, and we’re starting to move forward,” Swanson said during a media conference at City Council chambers earlier this month. “I will not resign.”

Swanson did not respond to a phone call or email earlier today to discuss tonight’s meeting.

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