Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

City hires attorney in probe of suspended city clerk

Jodi Summit
Posted 7/11/19
TOWER- The investigation into suspended city clerk-treasurer Linda Keith is now underway. At Monday’s city council meeting here, Mayor Orlyn Kringstad gave an update on the investigation being …

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City hires attorney in probe of suspended city clerk

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TOWER- The investigation into suspended city clerk-treasurer Linda Keith is now underway. At Monday’s city council meeting here, Mayor Orlyn Kringstad gave an update on the investigation being conducted by attorney Mitch Brunfelt. The council voted to hire Brunfelt last month after suspending Keith with pay and he is now representing the city as the union process plays out. Keith, who is represented by the Teamsters, has filed at least three grievances, just prior to and since her suspension in late June. At Brunfelt’s recommendation, the council voted to authorize the Virginia-based attorney to be the city’s point of contact with the union. Meanwhile, Brunfelt has launched a probe into a laundry list of allegations against Keith, some of which may be criminal. Kringstad said the investigation would include, among other things, looking into the “wanton destruction of city property,” related to the city laptop that Keith says she destroyed. Brunfelt will be at the July 22 council meeting to give an update in person, Kringstad said. Brunfelt also told Kringstad that he feels the investigation will be completed in less time than the city council allotted. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office has completed its own investigation into allegations that Keith falsified city records as part of an effort to illegally oust Marshall Helmberger from the Tower Economic Development Authority. The investigation is now under review by the county attorney’s office, which is weighing possible criminal charges. Harbor update Harbor town home developer spokesperson Michael Wood told the council that they are making progress on the project, and are working on finalizing the CIC plat, which will still need to be approved by the city’s planning and zoning committee. “I do not think we will be building this year,” Wood said, “but there is still a slight chance. It’s encouraging that some of the details are being worked out.” Kringstad suggested there is renewed urgency for progress on the town home project. He said there is a possibility that the city may qualify for IRRR grant dollars for the city’s share of the Pine Street infrastructure if the town home developers can sign at least one purchase agreement this year, even if construction can’t start this year. The IRRR funds could then be used as the city’s $190,000 match on the project since the reconstruction project would include the road changes and utilities necessary to develop the first unit of six town homes. SEH engineer Matt Bolf reported that two of the three outstanding plat issues should be wrapped up within a week. The final issue is regarding a city limits boundary issue that Keith was supposed to have been working on with a state agency. But city officials could find no evidence that any progress had been made, so interim clerk-treasurer Ann Lamppa said she will begin to work on the process. Fourth of July Kringstad gave a shout out to the city maintenance crew and Tower-Soudan Lake Vermilion Events Board members for all the work done for this year’s Fourth of July celebration. “I want to state how proud I am of the maintenance staff,” he said, noting how quickly they were able to get Main Street cleaned up after the big celebration. Kringstad also singled out the events board committee. “They deserve a huge round of applause and thank you for a job well done,” he said. The city did receive one complaint on the event, regarding the sawdust scramble pile on the street in front of the clinic. Clinic staff contacted the city noting they had requested the sawdust not be put in the roadway until after the close of business the evening before, and then removed in the morning, so as not to block traffic going to the clinic. They requested better communication with the city next year, and perhaps moving the pile off the roadway. Other business In other business, the Tower City Council:  Heard that Dave Rose was willing to give the city an easement on his East Two River property, at no cost, if it is needed to connect the new harbor trail to the Hoodoo Point bike trail.  Heard from Airport Commission Chair John Burgess, who told the council that Ambulance Supervisor Steve Altenburg had approached him in a threatening manner after the June 10 meeting, stating he would be watching the airport budget and what goes on at the airport. Burgess said he felt Altenburg was trying to intimidate him. Burgess noted that the city levies $8,000 for the airport, which is about 26-percent of the revenue that the airport generates for the city each year. Kringstad suggested that Altenburg make a response to the council, in writing, regarding the incident.  Established a project committee which will meet with SEH engineers on a regular monthly basis to get updates on current projects and make decisions as needed. Bolf said with the number of open projects the city is managing right now, such a committee would be very helpful. The committee will include Kringstad, Councilor Steve Abrahamson, the interim city clerk-treasurer, someone from the city maintenance staff, and possibly a representative from the Tower Economic Development Authority.  Heard that campground bookings are down about four percent from last year, but are still well up over two years ago. Campground Manager Randy Pratt said the biggest issue at the campground right now is vandalism in the bathrooms. He said vandals are throwing bars of soap into the toilet and creating clogs, and running hot water in an empty shower stall so long that the metal doors expand and seal shut. “If anyone knows who may be doing this, please let us know,” he said. The Breitung Police are also assisting with the investigation. Pratt said they like to be able to keep the shower and bathroom building open for use by the public if possible ‰ Approved a list of city employees, including firefighters, ambulance members, and city councilors. The list is for the city’s propane provider, Como Oil and Propane, who extends a city discount to these workers. Council member Mary Shedd did question if this was appropriate for the city to do, but council member Rachel Beldo noted that it was Como that was offering the discounts, not the city. ‰ Approved a contract with interim city clerk-treasurer Ann Lamppa.

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