A big uproar in tiny Landfall

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW
  • Star Tribune
  • August 9, 2012 - 10:45 PM

In a move that even blindsided the mayor of tiny Landfall, the City Council on Wednesday abruptly fired its controversial mobile-home park manager and gave a 90-day notice to the city attorney that it plans to terminate his contract.

The separate 3-1 votes were part of a meeting maelstrom that had audience members yelling obscenities and police escorting park manager Colleen Arndt, allegedly kicking and screaming, from the building.

"You had an angry mob. It was an ugly scene," said Greg "Flash" Feldbrugge, mayor of the Washington County community nestled along the southeast side of Tanners Lake between Oakdale and Maplewood. The city, which consists of manufactured homes and mobile homes, has a population of about 700.

According to some residents, tension and frustration over how Arndt has been running the community had been festering. In the few months since she took over, the City Council voted to end its contract with Maplewood for police services, angering some in the community. Others say Arndt was heavy-handed, targeting residents for eviction and sending threatening letters about violations to others. Efforts to reach Arndt were unsuccessful.

Jim Dumar, who is running for mayor, got three of those letters. He was accused of swearing at a city employee and "interfering with city business" when he went to the Maplewood City Council and asked members to continue providing police protection to Landfall, he said.

"We have been under a veil of oppression that rivals the Gestapo," Dumar said. "The tyranny we lived through over the past six to eight months has been really bad."

That was enough to persuade Council Member Ron Sarnoski to make the motions to dismiss Arndt and city attorney Kevin Shoeberg, even though that was not part of the night's printed agenda.

Sarnoski had little to say about the firings other than that it will be "better for the city" and that he didn't like the way Arndt and Shoeberg ran the city and treated people. When asked if the city's decision to end its police contract with Maplewood had anything to do with the firings, Sarnoski said "that could have started it all."

What troubled Feldbrugge, who voted against both measures, is that Sarnoski and another City Council member appear to have had paperwork drawn up for the firings before Wednesday's meeting.

"It hit me out of the blue; as mayor, I didn't know anything about this," Feldbrugge said. "It concerns me. There is an open meeting law. Apparently they had paperwork drawn up to have them removed. ... I am afraid the city is going to be sued by the former park manager."

Sarnoski said he did meet with one other City Council member before the meeting.

Arndt might have her own legal troubles after allegedly kicking in a wall as she was being escorted from the building.

"She created quite a scene. We will be looking at the case," said Maplewood Police Chief Dave Thomalla, whose department is under contact to provide police services to Landfall until Dec. 31. Thomalla said he would be open to discussing the possibility of continuing the service there as it has for the past 19 years.

Shoeberg said he was not told why he was let go. But Sarnoski said Shoeberg billed the city $9,000 for legal services last month, double the normal $4,500.

The council named former Oakdale Mayor Ted Bearth as interim park manager.

In sponsoring the motions, Sarnoski said he was doing the will of the people, and looks forward to getting things settled and "going back to being a nice quiet city."

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib

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