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Armstrong council considers pay for city employees

Armstrong city council and attorneys grapple with running city government

By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer | Feb 22, 2021

As first reported by the Armstrong Journal, the Armstrong city council called a special session Tuesday, Feb. 16 to determine how they would run city business amid the absence of three key city employees. A 21-count indictment came down against Mayor Greg Buum, police chief Craig Merrill, city clerk Tracie Lang, and former city clerk Connie Thackery, leaving Armstrong without essential employees.

In a meeting by teleconference, the city council met with its attorney, David Stein of Milford, to decide how to proceed with city functions.

Armstrong city hall remained lock pending the receipt of a key from Emmet County Sheriff Mike Martens. Monday, Feb. 22, another special budget meeting is scheduled. The council agreed to pay Merrill and Lang’s salaries until then, with council member Nick Mart abstaining. Stein suggested the council could place Merrill and Lang on unpaid suspension since there is the potential they could return to work pending the outcome of their court cases.

Council member Robb Nutt said he thought Lang and Merrill should be paid until the courts decide their cases. Council member Joann Eaton expressed concern for how long it could take for the cases to run through the court system and how the city would pay for services unpaid during the employees’ suspensions.

Phil Henriksen, who handles the city’s insurance, said both employees could be covered indefinitely, even if they are on unpaid leave.

In other logistical matters, McGregor Accounting will handle the city’s books at this time, and the League of Cities will place an advertisement for a temporary city clerk for Armstrong at no charge to the city. The Emmet County Sheriff’s office will provide law enforcement coverage at no charge to the city.

Merrill and Lang remained on paid leave with the situation set to be revisited at Monday’s special meeting.

The council was unable to take action on the city budget due to the city hall being locked and tabled the matter until Monday’s meeting.

The Estherville News will have an update on how the city of Armstrong will move forward in Thursday’s edition of the Estherville News.