Anoka City Council Member Erik Skogquist faces disorderly conduct charges after allegedly berating city staff over the removal of trees in Rudy Johnson Park last month.
The city asked Lino Lakes police to investigate to avoid any conflicts of interest, and the Lino Lakes prosecutor recently filed misdemeanor charges.
On June 8 Skogquist went to Rudy Johnson Park while crews were removing trees as part of a park renovation project. Jerry Tri, the city tree inspector and arborist, was retrieving tools from his truck when he heard Skogquist yelling, “What the f---, Jerry, you let them cut all the f------ trees down, you are a f------ forester,” according to the criminal complaint.
Skogquist also cursed at a nearby contractor who was laughing at his outburst, the charges say.
Skogquist then went to City Hall, where Public Services Supervisor Jon Holmes and Public Services Administrator Lisa LaCasse were discussing the park project. When he yelled for LaCasse to come to the service window, she invited him into her office instead, according to the complaint.
Skogquist allegedly stood in the doorway and cursed at LaCasse and Holmes, telling them, “You are a poor sight for a f------ park department, you two got your f------ heads up your asses.”
“The rage in that man’s voice was unbelievable,” Holmes told police.
Holmes also told police that he asked Skogquist to calm down so Holmes and LaCasse could explain the project but that Skogquist would not.
LaCasse and an employee in a nearby office told the investigator Skogquist’s behavior was upsetting.
City staff told investigators they were shocked and alarmed by Skogquist’s behavior and that it disrupted their ability to work. One staff member reported trouble sleeping since the incident.
Skogquist appeared to be most upset by the removal of two cottonwood trees, which were the tallest trees in the park, according to the police incident report. The pair was not slated for removal under the original park plan, but Tri, the city arborist, later recommended taking them out, due to decay and overall condition. One of the cottonwood trees had likely been damaged by lightning, and the other had a severe lean and deteriorating crown. A few years ago a branch from one of the trees fell and crushed a grill and damaged a table where a family had been picnicking minutes before, according to Park Board meeting minutes.
LaCasse told police that the park plan initially called for cutting down 23 trees but staff determined more could remain. She believed only 16 trees were removed in the end.
According to the police incident report, Skogquist “appeared remorseful about the way he responded to the situation” and told police that he should not have used “the F word,” but he reasoned his actions were justified because his concerns were not being heard. He said he was frustrated that the plan was not being followed, that the crew cutting trees was not licensed and that damage was being done to other trees in the removal process. He also said he didn’t believe city staff was being honest with him.
Aside from the misdemeanor charges, Skogquist’s alleged actions may violate the Anoka City Charter. “Except for the purpose of inquiry, the Council and its members shall deal with and control the administrative service solely through the City Manager or his/her designee, and neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any of the subordinates of the City Manager, either publicly or privately,” the charter says.
When reached for comment on the situation, Skogquist’s attorney, Tyler Bliss, provided the following statement:
“The entire situation is regrettable and we look forward to addressing this allegation through the proper channels. Erik continues to work to protect the interests of the citizens of Anoka and the beauty of this historic city.”
An arraignment on the charges is scheduled for Feb. 9, 2021.