Rukavina back in business of making trouble

by Richard Thomas

Pete Stauber enjoys a good chuckle. (Photo by Richard Thomas)
Pete Stauber enjoys a good chuckle. (Photo by Richard Thomas)

I was a big troublemaker in the group. I put them through a lot of pain, but as much as I gave to them, they gave right back to me.” - Dee Dee Ramone

St. Louis County commissioner Tom Rukavina missed the April 3 board meeting due to a family commitment. Board Chair Keith Nelson commented how things went much more smoothly without Rukavina around. But Rukavina was back April 10 and proceeded to make up for lost time.

The board was preparing to give final approval to changes in the 2017 fourth quarter budget. “You know, there’s four pretty hefty items in there with out-of-home placement,” Rukavina said. “Explain it to me.”

The board and administration then spent 40 minutes explaining issues that had already been discussed extensively in the April 3 committee of the whole. (Reader, April 5) “There’s all kinds of money being moved around and I don’t really have an understanding of it,” Rukavina said. “It’s hard for me to support this and I’m gonna vote no.”

Nelson asked if the budget could be laid over another week “so that some of my fellow commissioners could have an opportunity to have — or would it be two weeks?” (The next county board meeting is April 24.) 

“I do not want to lay it over,” Rukavina said. “Okay, I got it.”

“To my fellow commissioners, I am not asking you not ask questions here,” Nelson said. “What I am asking is that the questions be asked in more appropriate settings so we can get you the exact information. It is a cumbersome setting at board meetings to do that. Workshops are a lot easier. Again, I apologize we have no been able to get health and human services forward. (The health and human services workshop is next week.) But to say that we don’t have a grasp or understanding of the budget at this point, the fact of the matter is that all those members are out there every day and the questions need to be asked, appropriate questions need to be asked, and Commissioner Rukavina, if you’d asked, I would be more than happy to sit down with you at any time and go through each and every line item, as I’m sure would auditor (Don) Dicklich and others.” 

Still, Nelson acknowledged that after 16 years of being on the board, “I don’t fully understand every piece of this.”

When the resolution came to vote, Rukavina said he wanted to abstain. There was a discussion on whether he had the ability to do so on this matter under parliamentary rules. Ultimately, it was up to Nelson as chair, who put the abstention down as a no vote, “because that’s what I see this as, a continued effort to undermine the practices and the rules of this board.”

30-year-old cheatin’?

Late in the committee of the whole meeting, Nelson said, “I’m going to turn to Commissioner (Pete) Stauber because he’s been holding his tongue all day to make a statement about some kind of dog.”

Stauber said, “So last week I predicted that we’d come back and the UMD Bulldogs would be national champions. I just want to congratulate the team and coaches Sandelin, Larsen and Herter for their great leadership, and for them to win a national championship, to come into the Final 16 as the last team and win, it is nothing short of miraculous … I can share with you that it was 30 years ago this year that I was on a national championship team and it gets bigger and better every year to have them win and fill their memories for the rest of their lives.”

Stauber, who is running for Congress in Minnesota’s 8th District, was referring to his college days at Lake Superior State University in Michigan. His campaign website states, “One of Stauber’s highlights in college was having the opportunity to meet President Ronald Reagan, after the LSSU hockey team (which he captained) won the Division I National Championship in 1988.”

He cited the event in a Duluth News Tribune interview (Feb. 17, 2018) about his campaign: “‘My entire life has really prepared me for this,’ he said. ‘Playing hockey on a team winning national championships — meeting President Reagan.’”

Less favorable press came from a City Pages article, “Hockey hero and would-be congressman Pete Stauber won’t talk about cheating” (March 13, 2018). According to the online article, which includes video from the 1988 game, LSSU and St. Lawrence University were tied 3-3 with under two minutes remaining. A scrimmage took place near LSSU’s net, and Stauber avoided St. Lawrence scoring by hitting the net with his shoulder and knocking it off its moorings, bringing the game to a halt.

The crowd booed and one of the announcers, looking at the instant replay, said, “Watch 21, Stauber, heave with the left shoulder.” “Wow,” said the other announcer. 
But the ref apparently didn’t see it and instead of giving St. Lawrence a penalty shot, called for a face-off. LSSU went on to a 4-3 victory, a miracle similar to UMD’s recent victory except arguably with an asterisk.

City Pages said Stauber did not respond to numerous requests for comment. After he mentioned the game at the April 10 meeting, The Reader asked if he wanted to address the claims.

“No,” Stauber said with a long and hearty laugh. “That was a great moment in my life, winning the championship. I don’t know who the individual was. You must have talked to them.” (The Reader has not communicated with City Pages.) “That was a great time for me. I got a ring that I gave to my dad and he’s worn it. I haven’t worn it yet. When I wear it, I’m gonna be showin’ it to you. But my dad’s still with us.”