LAKE ELMO, Minn. - One city is facing a 500-percent increase in its insurance deductible. And it’s not because of lawsuits or claims. It’s because city leaders simply can’t get along.
Driving into Lake Elmo its clear an election is underway. However, amid the candidates’ signs are signs calling for civility in government.
There is a reason why. KARE 11 asked residents to describe Lake Elmo’s government in a word. “Dysfunctional,” was the primary response.
Video from city council meetings shows Lake Elmo Councilors talking over each other, rolling eyes and arguing over what constitutes a personal attack.
After a dispute in July 3, council members voted to adjourn the meeting after it got out of control. But members say the animosity in this chamber has been growing.
The issues are so bad the city’s insurance carrier, the League of Minnesota Cities, has recommended increasing Lake Elmo’s deductible in the case of lawsuits from $500 to $250,000.
It’s a move the League has taken only three times in its history.
Dan Greensweig of the League says the concern is for future liability. He says his organization was concerned by the high number of city employees who’ve quit and by the council’s inability to work together.
“You’ve got five people on the council who really care about their city and I think are struggling to find a way that they can work with one another to move the city forward,” Greensweig said.
The organization even brought in mediators to help but to no avail.
Councilman Justin Bloyer admits things have gotten so bad, it’s difficult for the council to work effectively.
“It’s not acceptable but it’s only been in the last two years that we’ve seen the uptick and the real conflict,” he said.
Bloyer was doubtful problems would be resolved before the November election.
Councilwoman Ann Smith disputes that the council is dysfunctional. However, she says the meetings have become far less productive.
“It’s become about people standing up at the podium, throwing out accusations, throwing out names,” she said.
The League’s decision on the deductible increase isn’t final and it can be reversed if councilors show they can move forward together.