The wheels fall off in Lake Elmo

The soap opera in Lake Elmo has taken another turn. The sixth member of the city’s government is quitting, adding to the perception of a city in turmoil following the election of a voting bloc on the City Council.

“We are in a dire situation,” Council member Justin Boyer tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press in the wake of the resignation of city planner Nick Johnson.

That’s not an insignificant loss considering Lake Elmo has been mired in controversy for years over how it will grow, and the split on the council has occurred with the election of a growth-shy slate that has campaigned on not becoming neighboring Woodbury.

Johnson is the sixth city hall staffer to leave in recent months. The list includes administrator Dean Zuleger, deputy clerk Beckie Gumatz, assistant city administrator Adam Bell, and taxpayer relations manager Alyssa MacLeod.

“I think this is a fabricated drama meant to hurt the two new councilors and myself,” Council member Anne Smith told the newspaper.

“The council certainly micromanages and shows distrust. But what is most impactful is the neglect they show the staff for the dignity and respect they deserve,” Pearson said.

“I thought we had quite a team assembled, with good esprit de corps. To see that vanquished over the past two months has been difficult,” Pearson said. “Turnover is hard, expensive and damaging.”

Bloyer said the departures have hurt the city’s ability to conduct business.

“City taxpayers are being hurt. The phones are not getting picked up and the emails are not getting answered,” he said.