MOUNDS VIEW, Minn. - On Monday night, a Mounds View woman made a plea before the Mounds View City Council, asking council members to remove a Planning Commissioner from his seat, saying he continually harassed her by littering in her yard.
Kathleen Smith says her neighbor, Gary Rundle, continually tossed pop cans in her yard over a three-month period, from last April to mid-July, after they had a dispute over roaming neighborhood cats.
Smith is an avid bird watcher, and has built nesting boxes in her backyard for wood ducks, screech owls, wrens and bluebirds. She says cats are predators of the birds, and she became worried when she saw a stray cat in her yard last spring. She asked Rundle and his wife to make sure their three cats were kept inside.
"She came over and said she thought our cats were in our shed. She wanted us to keep them in the house and I had no problem with that," said Rundle, who said his cats don't go outside. "It all started firing up from there."
Soon Smith says she noticed pop cans appearing in her yard in the mornings, around the same time Rundle drove to work.
She suspected Rundle was behind the litter, but needed proof. Smith uses cameras to capture the wildlife in her bird boxes, turned one of them towards Rundle's home, and captured him in action. Her video shows a pop can flying out the door of Rundle's van as he passed by her home.
"It was a childish thing I did. I know it was. It was stupidity," said Rundle, who admitted he was angry. "I tossed two cans and she taped me leaving my driveway. I admitted to it."
Rundle told KARE 11 he at first lied to Mounds View Police about being behind the litter, but then came clean after the video surfaced, pleading guilty and paying the littering fine.
Smith says it's not enough. She believes Rundle's behavior is unacceptable for a neighbor, but even more intolerable for someone who serves the public on the Mounds View Planning Commission, a volunteer position. She asked the Mounds View City Council to remove Rundle from his seat as a planning commissioner, emphasizing the moral conflict for a man in a position of power.
"Does the city of Mounds View tolerate harassment?" Smith asked the five members of council Monday night. "I have no ill will toward you Gary, but if you stepped down, we wouldn't be here tonight."
The conflict soon centered on what it means to be a neighbor. Rundle said it seemed Smith was also harassing his family.
"You guys are going to walk to the mailbox at the same time not even look at each other not say a word and you won't be the good neighbors you all want to be," scolded Mayor Joe Flaherty.
"I am greatly disappointed the relationship has come to this. I apologize to everyone in our community this accelerated this point," said Council Member Carol Mueller. "I cannot ask a commissioner to step down because of littering. I like to think character is built when you make mistakes and move forward."
Mueller motioned for a vote to keep Rundle in his seat as planning commissioner, and the council agreed with a unanimous 5-0 vote.
Smith expressed disappointment, saying the council made the "wrong decision" but after the meeting, extended her hand to Rundle. They shook hands as they walked out the door, still disagreeing on exactly what happened, but in agreement they must move forward.
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