City Hall is shuttered. The mayor has a key but won't let the City Council in. And one of the city's last remaining employees left Friday.
In other words, it's been a typical week in Lakeland, the east metro burg where Mayor Richard Glasgow and the City Council have been at odds for much of the year.
The latest flare-up, over a special meeting scheduled for Friday, had Glasgow refusing to unlock City Hall after he alleged that the council didn't properly post a meeting notice.
Even after the city attorney told him that everything was done correctly, Glasgow stuck to his views and told a reporter that the city could face a pricey lawsuit for violating the state's Open Meeting Law. In fact, the mayor added, he would file the complaint himself if the council met.
The agenda for Friday's meeting included finding an interim city clerk, according to Council Member Joseph Paiement, to replace the last clerk who left earlier this month.
The council also wanted the mayor to turn over the keys to City Hall.
Glasgow "sort of treats City Hall as if it were his own home," Paiement said. "He has cameras on it so he could watch it; he's the only one who could enter it."
As unusual as it sounds, the standoff among Lakeland's elected leaders is nothing new for the 2,000 residents of this city, nestled on the St. Croix River.
The fighting began last year when a handful of citizens questioned Glasgow's decision to appoint Council Member Jim Stanton as both director of public works and planning and zoning administrator. Those city positions were part time but paid hourly wages worth far more than council service.
Stanton resigned from the City Council in February. Since then, Glasgow and the council have feuded over how to fill council vacancies.
A second council member resigned in May, and it wasn't until a June meeting — which Glasgow did not attend — that the council filled the open seats with Michael Thron and Lisa LaRoque Williams, both of whom had questioned Stanton's arrangements with the mayor. Not surprisingly, Glasgow said their appointments weren't valid.
Among Lakeland's other battlefronts: Some 300 residents have called for an audit of city finances; the League of Minnesota Cities hosted a mediation session between the mayor and the council this spring, to no avail; and Glasgow created a website for the city, cityoflakeland.us, over the objections of the city attorney who pointed out that the city already had a website at ci.lakeland.mn.us.
Social media has been rife with insinuations that Glasgow, who was a vocal opponent of a new city hall that was under construction in 2016, knew something about the arson fire that destroyed it days after he was elected to his first term as mayor.
Glasgow himself said he was visited by arson investigators and showed them security footage taken by cameras inside and outside of his house to prove he was at home the night of the fire.
Meanwhile, City Hall has gone dark. The city has hired vendors to handle city functions: Swanson Haskamp Consulting of St. Paul has zoning and planning services, a private engineering firm has helped with street maintenance, and CarlsonSV, an accounting firm based in Amery, Wis., has taken over bookkeeping services, according to Paiement.
"As of this morning, as of 8 o'clock, we have no staff," Glasgow said Friday, Stanton's last day on the job as public works director. The mayor said employees had all left because of a hostile work environment. He blamed the City Council and "a person from another city" who he said was responsible for "just about everything that's going on" but couldn't name for fear of a lawsuit.
Paiement said he's known Glasgow as a neighbor for a long time and sometimes wonders if he shouldn't just wander over to the mayor's house to make peace. "I'm still hoping he'll come around and do what's right," he said.
At the same time, Paiement said that if Glasgow doesn't comply with directives from council members, they might have to sue him.
"We can't continue to function like this," he said.
Glasgow said he shoulders no blame for Lakeland's leadership woes.
"None of it. Zero," he said. "Every day I wake up and I say I'm just going to resign, and these people start e-mailing me and calling me saying, 'Please don't. Please don't, Mr. Mayor.'
"They're even at the point now where they're asking me to run again next year. They say if I leave, the city will fail immediately."