The Lakeland City Council stripped Mayor Richard Glasgow of most of his powers Tuesday night, delegating his authority over public works, water services and other city functions to council members.
The public defrocking of Glasgow, who skipped the meeting, was the council’s bid to end a longstanding fight for control of the city that’s seen shouted accusations, meeting walkouts and locked City Hall doors.
“We’re trying to disperse authority within the city so no one individual, especially the mayor, has all the power in this little town,” Council Member Joe Paiement said shortly before the meeting began.
The council almost had to cancel. Minutes before the 6 p.m. meeting was to start, City Hall’s front doors were still locked. Paiement and other council members were discussing the legality of meeting on the front lawn when a new city employee opened the doors at 6 p.m. She told the council that Glasgow had let her in 45 minutes earlier and then left.
It’s clear Glasgow knew the council was prepared to act. He sent an e-mail to council members before the meeting that seemed to be a call for a truce. “The City of Lakeland is being watched like I’ve never seen in my 12 plus years on the council,” he wrote. “We should be extra careful not to cause more controversy.”
It was just last week that he crowed that the city might fail without him while explaining that he had to lock the council out of City Hall because they didn’t follow proper procedures for posting their meeting. Even after the city attorney said the meeting was legal, Glasgow stuck to his opinion.
The breakdown between Glasgow and the City Council grew so contentious over the months that city employees complained of a hostile work environment. Some left, and city services have been patchy.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, it was clear local residents were tiring of the drama.
A mother said she was concerned about hazardous waste spreading from a building project near her home, and wondered if a proper inspection had been done.
“Having the City Hall doors closed has really wreaked some havoc,” she said.
A problem road that’s gone unattended was the final straw for resident Jim Space.
“There’s no telephone numbers. There’s nobody to respond to. None of the work is getting done,” he said of city officials.
After appointing Paiement as the acting mayor for the purposes of Tuesday’s meeting, the council got down to business, naming a new city clerk, terminating its contract with a security services company and distributing Glasgow’s authority to council members.
Council Member Shayne Orning was given control of all keys and security codes for city buildings. Council Member Lisa Williams will now handle all computer and technology information services for the city. And Council Member Mike Thron will oversee public works and the water system.
Space, keeping his sense of humor, offered mild praise to the council.
“Congratulations on your new office,” he said to Paiement, the acting mayor. “God help you.”