Meet Leroy Schaffer, St. Francis's nightmare councilman
Leroy Schaffer is having another bad year.
Schaffer, a St. Francis City Council member, was supposed to be censured for the fourth time by the council on Tuesday for a long pattern of sexual harassment. The harassment accusations are so outrageous they've overshadowed the racially insensitive remark Schaffer made to a Latino member of the Met Council at a June 20 City Council meeting.
Now Schaffer is facing possible criminal charges related to a bizarre incident in which he called police to his house on Friday, telling the cops he thought he'd received a bomb in the mail.
There was no bomb to be found, and Schaffer could now be charged with filing a false police report.
Each of Schaffer's previous three censures from the council involved inappropriate conduct with women. He also has two trespass orders against him, which block him from entering certain businesses, both related to sexual harassment.
In March, Schaffer, 72, was banned from InkNMaven tattoo parlor after owner Amanda Smart told police that Schaffer was harassing her. When Smart didn't respond, Schaffer threatened to have the city shut down her business.
Schaffer's most recent trouble stems from a dramatic June 20 meeting. First, St. Francis resident Kristin Cole told the council that Schaffer would not stop harassing her. Cole had contacted Schaffer for help on an issue, but when she resolved the issue--without his help, she pointed out--he continued to call her and ask her out on a date.
At one point, Cole shifted from talking to the council to talking to Schaffer directly.
"I'd made that clear to him in prior communications," she said, "that dating you, or going anywhere with you, was not something I was interested in."
That was act one. Act two was when Edward Reynoso, a newly appointed member of the Metropolitan Council, introduced himself as the local representative.
When he finished, Schaffer speculated about Reynoso's background.
"I think you're Latino," Schaffer began, causing councilman Jeff Sandoval to turn away as if he'd rolled his eyes so hard it spun his chair. "I've got a feeling you're maybe low income, or have experienced low income or whatever, and I feel you'll be a good addition because of it... Do you come from that background, is my suspicion right or am I just shootin' blind here?"
Reynoso said he was Latino, and proud of it. He said he grew up in Southern California, with six siblings and hard-working parents.
"We struggled," Reynoso said, "but never experienced poverty, as maybe you--I don't know what you're looking for as an answer on that."
A racially insensitive soundbite would probably be enough to get a censure. But in Schaffer's case, the pattern of women stepping forward to complain about him is overwhelming.
St. Francis mayor and councilman Jerry Tveit told City Pages that Cole and Smart, who also testified in front of the City Council, are only the beginning.
"I have had no less than a dozen phone calls from women in my community asking for my help to get Leroy to stop bothering them," Tveit said. "And there's also been probably another dozen ladies that have gone in to city hall... and asked, 'Please get Leroy to stop bothering me.'"
When asked whether Schaffer was fit to serve on the council, Tveit said that was up to the voters. Last year, Schaffer received 1,275 votes, more than any other candidate.
When asked what it was like to work with Schaffer, with his public flaws, Tveit said he wanted to choose his words carefully. Then, after a pause that lasted 20 full seconds, Tveit said, "It's hard to answer that."
Ultimately, Tveit said he needed to work with Schaffer, as an elected official. But he and other council members are frustrated that any good news--donations that fix roads, or put a dozen evergreens in the town park--is lost in the mess that follows Schaffer.
Tveit said the censure was postponed because Schaffer could not attend Tuesday's meeting.
Cdr. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office said Schaffer was not in custody, and hadn't been charged with a crime for the alleged false report. He also said he couldn't, or wouldn't, say much about the case at this point.
"This individual is kind of problematic if you know his history," Sommer said. "We're going to be really careful, and not violate his...privacy rights."
A call left for Schaffer was not returned.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.