Coleman appoints ombudsman in wake of state takeover of inspections

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has appointed an ombudsman to represent the city’s interests in the wake of the state’s takeover of some St. Paul inspections.

The new ombudsman, Gary Edwards, should be a familiar face. He’s St. Paul’s former environmental health manager, who was brought in earlier this year in an attempt to address concerns about the city’s inspections and turn around the department.

In a letter that will be sent to St. Paul businesses on Wednesday morning, Coleman said the city will work with the state to minimize confusion in the wake of the state takeover.

“Gary Edwards will act as a liaison between the city and the state to track the progress on new business applications and expansions,” Coleman wrote. “The ombudsman will also identify and eliminate unnecessary delays and ensure productive communication and coordination.”

The Minnesota Department of Health and St. Paul ended an agreement that allowed the city to conduct its own inspections on July 8 due to concerns about sloppy and irregular inspections. An attempt by St. Paul to legally block the takeover failed.

The state now has responsibility for inspecting restaurants, hotels and swimming pools in the city. St. Paul is still responsible for inspecting businesses that deal in liquor, entertainment, tobacco or fuel.