Lake Elmo City Council is under fire after The Stillwater Gazette released a confidential report regarding the council on its front page last Friday. The Gazette explains that in 2014 the council approved the outside investigation in to allegations against Dean Zuleger, the city’s former administrator. The report was done by Jessica Schwie of Jardine, Logan and O’Brien, and cost taxpayers $11,289.09.
In a surprising twist, the report claims some council members, specifically Anne Smith, are the catalysts behind a dysfunctional working environment. Unsurprisingly, the city refused to release any part of the report. However, the documents were leaked to The Gazette and now the Washington County sheriff’s office is being asked to investigate the breach of information.
The Pioneer Press reports Gazette Managing Editor Jonathon Young said, “We had extensive internal discussion and review, and we felt the information was important for the public to see.”
The Stillwater Gazette explains that the city has had eight employees resign since the beginning of 2015, with several employees citing a “hostile work environment” as a factor in their resignations. The city has hired a parliamentarian to assist running the meetings for $200 an hour.
The public response has been scathing since the release of the stories by The Gazette and the Pioneer Press. In a response to the story on The Gazette one person responds, “Important to see it confirmed by an objective third party, but none of us that know the dynamics at city hall are surprised by report – not even the staff ‘sister act’ that reports directly to Ms Smith (and were hired at Smith’s urging/pressure for just that purpose). As long as that relationship remains, little will change. Reading the report should be mandatory for any LE job applicants – particularly City Administrator applicants. Be forewarned!”
The Pioneer Press article has several responses, nearly all of which are negative. One comment reads, “They are relying on attorney-client privilege to exempt the report from the Government Data Practices Act. All they are doing is making their pathetic act worse. Let’s hope Lake Elmo voters are paying attention to this madhouse.” Another comment reads, “The legal release of a publicly funded report should NOT be investigated by ANYBODY. The report was paid for by the majority of the council members’ constituents therefore owned by those constituents.”
In the public Facebook Group “We Love Lake Elmo” the discussion delves even deeper – several of the comments calling for Smith to resign, and supporting The Gazette for publishing the report.
Fellow council members are responding as well. In a Pioneer Press “letter to the editor” former Lake Elmo Councilman Mike Reeves writes, “The actions and behaviors of Council Members Fliflet, Smith and Lundgren continue to defy logic and run contrary to effective organizational practices. They’ve also put the city at risk, in my opinion, and they need to be held accountable.”
This is not Smith’s first controversy, in September of 2014 The Gazette reported that Lake Elmo City Council voted to, “forbid Councilmember Anne Smith from having one-on-one interaction with city staff following claims of ongoing ‘inappropriate behavior.'”
The Lake Elmo City Council has a meeting this Tuesday, but this issue is currently not set to be discussed. Alpha News has reached out to the Washington County sheriff’s department and will follow up on this story.