Jordan mayor files restraining order against city council member

Mayor Tanya Velishek (front, center) says Jeff Will (back right) makes her fear for her life.

Mayor Tanya Velishek (front, center) says Jeff Will (back right) makes her fear for her life.

Back in 2015, Tanya Velishek was fed up with fellow Jordan City Councilmember Jeff Will. In a letter to then-Mayor Mike Shaw, she described an unsuccessful “intervention” with Will about the way he’d acted around her, including allegedly placing his hand on his gun while talking to her.

“He pointed his finger, swore at me, and did it quietly so know [sic] one could see him stating ‘Don’t you f…ing do that to me again,” she wrote of the meeting. “He will not apologize and feels that his behavior is appropriate.”

He’d told her to “kiss his white ass,” she said. 

Two days later, Shaw responded, saying he and other officials had tried several times to “get Jeff to admit he was at fault,” and he wouldn’t. He speculated that the majority of the council probably wouldn’t agree to spend money on a mediator.

“My opinion, Tanya, if your future plans are to stay active in Jordan politics, you drop the issue," he wrote. "Jeff admitted that if you come after him – he will come after you.”

Velishek stayed active in Jordan politics, and according to the Jordan Independent, she and Will have traded several accusations of misconduct over the years. Today, she’s Jordan’s mayor. Unfortunately for her, Will is still on the City Council. But she’s apparently not “dropping the issue,” as Shaw once advised.

In early August, Velishek applied for a two-year restraining order against Will. She said in an affidavit filed in Scott County District Court that he’d resumed harassing her last November, and he hadn’t stopped since.

She alleges Will has been pointing his finger in her face, using “abusive language,” making sexual comments, and attempting multiple times to meet with her alone or with city staff. She said she feared for her life – that just being in a room with Will made her anxious.

Meanwhile, Will has been accusing her of misleading the public. In April, according to the Independent, she said during a council meeting that there had been several complaints of harassment or sexual harassment lodged against him. During a meeting in July, he claimed that there had been “zero complaints” against him and asked Velishek to set the record straight.

Later that month, he filed his own complaint against Velishek for having “misinformed the citizens of Jordan” and “lied to the public on multiple occasions,” as well as “ignor[ing] the League of Minnesota City Mayors handbook” and “refus[ing] to take input from other elected officials.” He suggested she be relieved of all committee assignments, or “initiate resignation,” among other things.

Will received a letter in August saying his complaint had been reviewed, but that the mayor and City Council aren’t exactly subject to the city’s personnel policy – unless it’s for travel reimbursement, sexual harassment, or inappropriate computer use.

“The complaint you submitted does not identify behavior that may be a possible violation of those policies,” it said.

Velishek wasn’t the only one at City Hall who felt uncomfortable around Will. The city’s Personnel Committee interviewed nine city employees and partners back in March, and a few of them had some not-so-complimentary things to say about his language and the way he’d been treating women. The list of bad behavior included talking about which women had a “nice ass,” “wearing down” employees with his tirades about city decisions, and “asking women during interviews whether they can tell someone 'to fuck off.'” 

The remaining council unanimously voted Will off the committee and prohibited him from one-on-one time with city employees for the rest of the year.

Velishek and Will both declined to comment. Unless a judge grants Velishek’s restraining order outright, it’s likely they’ll see one another in court.