North St. Paul new city manager resigns, says job has ‘taken a toll’ on his health, family life

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The North St. Paul City Council on Tuesday night addressed the resignation of John Stark, whose short stint as city manager was marred after he shared a link to a music video that included a racial slur.

Stark, who started in North St. Paul’s top administrative job on Jan. 3, told city officials Friday he wants to move on. In his resignation letter, he wrote the job “is not the right fit for me” and that it “has taken a very significant toll on my health, well-being and family life.”

Stark’s pending departure will mark the second city manager to leave North St. Paul after controversy over the past year. He replaced Scott Duddeck, who resigned last June after allegations that nearly $2,400 was charged to city accounts for Duddeck’s personal use.

Stark joined North St. Paul after 14 years as the community development director in Richfield.

But the controversy erupted in April after he sent an email to North St. Paul City Council members and staff highlighting and praising their recent work. At the end of the April 7 email, Stark included a link to a YouTube video of a song that his son and others created as part of a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“And, if you’ll indulge me, here is a shout out to my son from his proud dad,” Stark’s email read.

The next day, in an email to council members and city staff, Stark wrote he was unaware the song included a racial slur. He apologized, adding he was “truly sorry for sharing something offensive.”

“Had I noticed that, I would not have shared the video,” the email read. “Anyone who knows me knows that I am very concerned about racial justice, as is my son. He and I have both been involved in racial justice events during the past 2 years. I checked with my son on this and he said that the song was a collaboration of around sixteen people, the majority of whom were people of color.”

On Tuesday night, Stark told the city council that his “quality of life is not what I would like it to be right now” and that his resignation “is the remedy I was able to come up with.” He thanked council members for their support.

“It has been … a couple of hard months,” he said. “And your support for me, all five of you, has been just tremendous and unwavering.”

Mayor Terry Furlong thanked Stark for what he accomplished during the five months on the job, while also adding, “I wish it would have worked out better, but I totally understand.”

The city council formally accepted Stark’s resignation and agreed to waive the 30-day notice at his request, making his last day on the job June 15. Brian Frandle, the city’s electric supervisor, then will serve as interim manager, a role he took on following Duddeck’s departure.

North St. Paul worked with Mark Casey of David Drown and Associates in its search for Duddeck’s replacement. Casey told council members Tuesday the firm’s contract with the city includes a “two-year warranty” and so no additional cost would be charged to the city for another city manager search.

On Wednesday, Stark replied to an emailed request by the Pioneer Press for comment, writing that “during my tenure here, and continuing to this day, all five City Council members have expressed 100% support, both publicly and privately, for the work I have done here and for the content of my character.”

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