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Sweeney claims Fink threw book at her

ELY -- This time, the fight was about where the book landed. A regular meeting of the St. Louis County Board turned fiery once again Tuesday when Commissioner Peg Sweeney said Commissioner Dennis Fink threw a county financial report across a tabl...

ELY -- This time, the fight was about where the book landed.

A regular meeting of the St. Louis County Board turned fiery once again Tuesday when Commissioner Peg Sweeney said Commissioner Dennis Fink threw a county financial report across a table in her direction at a board workshop last week.

Sweeney said she was "shaken and rattled" by the incident and asked Fink for an apology at Tuesday's meeting.

She also asked that the board reprimand Fink.

A heated debate ensued, with some commissioners saying Fink was displaying passion for his work, that the book didn't land close to Sweeney and that Sweeney brought up the incident Tuesday for political reasons.

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Other commissioners called on Fink to

apologize.

The flare-up was another in a growing list of publicly displayed divisions among the seven-member board.

Other sources of conflict have included failed resolutions to reprimand Fink and Commissioner Steve Raukar for findings of sexual harassment of county employees, a dispute over the salary and budget of County Attorney Melanie Ford and a proposal to hire former County Attorney Alan Mitchell to continue work formerly performed by his office.

Fink admitted Tuesday to flipping the book into the air during a disagreement with Sweeney, but said he was not trying to throw it in Sweeney's direction.

"I could have put it in Commissioner Sweeney's lap," said Fink, a former women's college softball coach. "But I intended to put it in the middle of the table. It did not get there because of Commissioner Forsman's briefcase."

The county financial report that was tossed onto the table reflects Fink's passion, Commissioner Keith Nelson said.

"I would not want to have elected officials who do not have passion," Nelson said. "We all have passion. If we did not have the passion, I would not have left my job that paid me for this job."

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Nelson then chided Sweeney for her actions during board meetings and said that Sweeney brought up the incident for political purposes.

"The body language that is demonstrated by you, and you shaking your head, 'no,' and saying 'Ahhhh,' I have ignored," Nelson said. "If this is what commissioners are going to try to ride into the next election, it is unfortunate. To continue to perpetuate this and to script everything that takes place in a board meeting from a workshop, I don't agree with that."

Sweeney maintained that the book landed near her.

But Commissioner Mike Forman of Ely disagreed vehemently, slamming his fist on a table and saying that the book landed on his hat before ever making it near Sweeney.

"I should choose my words carefully, because every day there's something about me in the paper -- the Duluth paper -- but I expect nothing less," Forsman said. "Commissioner Fink showed me more passion than I would expect out of Commissioner Fink, but less than me and Paul Wellstone. It [the book] hadn't made it halfway across the table when I picked it up and pushed it across the table."

Commissioners Bill Kron and Steve O'Neil both said it was improper for Fink to toss the book. Kron called on Fink to apologize.

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