Two suspended Duluth city officials remain in limbo

Two high-ranking Duluth city officials who’ve been suspended — with pay — for more than two months remain in limbo, awaiting results of whatever investigation may be under way, reports the Duluth News Tribune.

The paper says Finance Director Genie Stark and Payroll Manager Jackie Morris have had extra time to prepare for the holidays, but they don’t seem to know what they’ve been accused of. And there are some in the city who think they’re victims of a witchhunt.

Reporter Brandon Stahl tries to estimate how much they’ve been paid for sitting at home:

“About $35,000 before taxes. Stark’s base monthly salary is $7,937, while Morris gets $5,929, according to the city (keep in mind that Stark was/is an at-will department director — meaning she could have been discharged at any time). And that’s not including benefits, with each eligible for about $1,045 a month in family health care benefits, or $512 to be on the single plan (I don’t know if they’ve enrolled in the city’s health care plan).

And, he said, he assumes that some city salary and resources have been used on the actual investigation.

And Stahl offers his own thoughts about the investigation:

“I’m going to get on my soapbox here for a moment: I’ve met Morris only once, so I don’t know what she’s like or what kind of person she is. But I’ve interviewed Stark numerous times and find her to be one of the most honest and trustworthy sources I’ve ever come across. Many people I’ve talked to in the city say they would be stunned if an investigation found wrongdoing. Personally, if it’s discovered that she intentionally (note the word) did anything that’s worthy of being suspended-with-pay for two and a half months, it’ll be as surprising as any story I’ll have ever covered in my ten year career in journalism.”

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