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Crosby City Council members want embattled mayor to resign after arrest on four felonies

The Crosby City Council meets Monday absent the city's mayor, who is accused of felony crimes. Forum News Service photo

CROSBY, Minn. —At least two members of the Crosby City Council said Monday they want the mayor to step down after he was arrested earlier this month.

Mayor James Hunter, 68, is accused of swindling his lover's husband out of $90,000 through the sale of his business, along with other alleged crimes.

Crosby is town of about 2,400 people in northern Minnesota.

Hunter faces five charges: felony second degree assault with a dangerous weapon, felony theft by swindle, felony receiving stolen property, felony lawful gambling fraud, and gross misdemeanor engaging in the business of a vehicle financing company without a license.

Hunter was briefly jailed, but later released. He posted bond, which the court had set at $20,000 with conditions of release or $100,000 without conditions.

After a last-minute addition to the agenda of Monday's city council meeting, Council Member Paul Heglund publicly called for Hunter to step down, saying he had damaged the town's reputation.

However, there's not much the council can do to remove him, acting mayor Ron Prushek said after the meeting. They can take action if Hunter is absent for 90 consecutive days—that is, three straight months of meetings—but otherwise, essentially their hands are tied, he said.

It would be in the best interest of the city for Hunter to resign, Prushek said. He agreed with Heglund that the matter was tarnishing Crosby's image. A prolonged absence from Hunter could put a crimp on the city's business, he said.

Heglund also criticized Hunter for failing to notify the council he would be absent at Monday's meeting. Missing the March 13 meeting was understandable because Hunter had just been arrested the Friday before, he said, but for Monday's meeting, Hunter had ample opportunity to alert the council in advance.

Heglund contrasted the town's shame from the Hunter incident with the joy of the high school basketball team's recent performance at the state tournament.

"He should look at the Crosby-Ironton basketball team, what they did in State, and how they made Crosby feel," he said. "The town was in an uproar. Now he turns around, and gives us a black eye."

Both Heglund and Prushek said they had nothing against Hunter personally.

Just before a court appearance Monday, Hunter said he felt there was an "abuse of power" in the police action against him.

Hunter defeated incumbent mayor Joanna Lattery in the 2016 election, 390 votes to 338. Hunter's attorney, Ed Shaw, has consistently suggested that the Crosby police department's arrest of Hunter may have been part of a political vendetta. In a March 17 press release, Shaw stated that Crosby chief Kim Coughlin and Lt. Kevin Randolph had criticised Hunter and opposed his election bid.

"The timing of these accusations, just after Mr. Hunter's election, is highly suspect," Shaw wrote.

In an interview, Shaw also said police used drawn weapons during the arrest, and questioned why drawing their guns was necessary.

After the meeting Monday, Coughlin denied having a political beef against Hunter, and said she couldn't vote in the Crosby election because she lives in Deerwood.

"I think he's trying to deflect off the real problem," Coughlin said of Shaw's statements.

Coughlin said there were no drawn firearms during Hunter's arrest, but officers would have been acting under their due prerogative anyway had they drawn them.

According to the criminal complaint, police found a total of 56 guns when conducting searches in connection with Hunter's case. Hunter explained that Monday by saying he was a collector of firearms.

A motion hearing for Hunter's case is scheduled for April 6 at 1:30 p.m., and an omnibus hearing May 30 at 9 a.m.

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