Several dozen people piled into Lakeland City Hall last week for a City Council meeting, but it was canceled for lack of a quorum. Two council members didn’t go because they objected to the mayor’s choice to fill a council vacancy.
“To have the whole place standing room only is really unusual. It’s a sign that something is going on that has sparked concern,” said Joe Paiement, one of the council members who intentionally missed the meeting.
“I could bring Mother Teresa forward to the council and they would still deny that person,” Mayor Richard Glasgow said.
Division over how to fill the empty seat is just the latest sign of dysfunction in the Washington County community of 1,800, where more than 300 residents have signed a petition calling for an audit of the city.
Those signatures were submitted to the State Auditor’s Office last week, and the League of Minnesota Cities has agreed to host a mediation session in the near future.
“There are so many things in the city that aren’t functioning properly, and I think everyone’s frustration level is at such a high,” said Julie Thron, one of the petition’s organizers.
The latest trouble began months ago, when Council Member Jim Stanton became the city’s public works commissioner and zoning administrator while retaining his council job.
After Stanton stepped down from the council in February, Glasgow chose Jon Place to fill his seat and put the item on the council agenda. Paiement asked the mayor to remove it, since at least five other candidates hadn’t been considered. When Glasgow refused, Paiement and Council Member Shayne Orning skipped the meeting.
Glasgow called that unprofessional, and said he had interviewed several people before choosing Place.
Paiement said that he and a group called Concerned Citizens of Lakeland want to hold a special election to fill the seat.
On at least one point, Glasgow said he agreed with the Concerned Citizens group: He’s looking forward to the mediation session with the League of Minnesota Cities.