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Former Tower mayor, city clerk charged with misconduct in row with local newspaper publisher

Timberjay publisher Marshall Helmberger claims the city disliked his newspaper's critical reporting.

The former mayor and the city clerk in Tower, Minnesota, have been charged with misconduct in public office after a row with the publisher of a local newspaper.

According to criminal complaints, ex-Tower Mayor Joshua Carlson and city clerk-treasurer Linda Keith worked to remove Marshall Helmberger, the publisher of The Timberjay, from the Tower Economic Development Authority (TEDA) before his term was due to expire.

Helmberger had been appointed to TEDA for a term that ended on Dec. 31, 2019. 

However, Keith is accused of falsifying official documents to make it appear that Helmberger's tenure was due to expire earlier than initially agreed, prompting his ouster in 2018.

In a formal document kept by Keith, the city's reorganization chart placed Helmberger in a one-year term with an expiration of 2017.

The complaint continues:

"This is in direct contradiction to the January 23, 2017 minutes. Notably, none of the TEDA commission appointments were accurately reflected when compared between the official Tower city minutes of what was voted and approved on by the Council on January 23, 2017. The person who would have created these two documents and would have known the second one to be false is in fact Ms. Keith."

Carlson then made a recommendation to remove Helmberger from TEDA in January 2018, failing to notify Helmberger in advance, and not giving him an opportunity for a formal hearing as required by state law.

Keith meanwhile wrote an email to a council member which stated: "The mayor says for Christmas this year he got me a present which is to take Marshall off of TEDA in January."

Carlson told police that he was unaware that the terms of Helmberger's tenure had been altered, but did say it was "fully his intent" to remove Helmberger from TEDA because he believes the publisher "had acted without proper authority in obtaining a grant from Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board without City Council approval."

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But writing in his newspaper, Helmberger claims that Carlson's efforts to remove him from the commission stem from the city becoming "increasingly angry" over critical reporting in The Timberjay about a number of local issues.

Carlson has been charged with misconduct as a public officer causing injury to another person, while Keith has been charged with misconduct as a public officer – making a false document.

Both are gross misdemeanors carrying fines of up to $3,000 or a year in jail.

Keith meanwhile was suspended with pay in June by the Tower City Council investigates a number of complaints made about her.

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