Grove City Drama 13 Jan 12

A civil lawsuit that questioned the legality of Grove City municipal employees joining a labor union has pitted residents, elected officials and staff against each other — costing the small Meeker County community dearly.

After spending thousands of dollars in legal fees, the city and the citizens’ group that sued reached a settlement last fall.

However, The West Central Tribune reports the financial and emotional costs continue to mount and threaten to rip the small town apart at the seams.

Last month, a city councilwoman threatened to resign if calm isn’t restored.

On Tuesday a councilman did resign, in dramatic fashion, while alleging that the current council has “hidden agendas,” has conducted illegal meetings and has taken actions that are not serving the taxpayers and could ultimately lead to additional lawsuits.

Clearly frustrated, Councilman Bill Houselog said Tuesday that he would have included a roll of duct tape with his letter of resignation, “but duct tape can’t fix stupid.”

The drama at the council table is also being played out in the community.

“People that have been friends for years are not friends anymore and that is sad,” said Grove City Councilwoman Gwen Cram, reading from a prepared statement during a Dec. 22 City Council meeting. “The town is divided.”

The costly dispute centered in City Hall includes a combination of personality conflicts, threats of job loss, anger about increasing city taxes and utility fees, questions about how city employees joined a labor union without the knowledge of the full City Council and a general mistrust between elected officials, employees and citizens.

Defending the lawsuit cost the town about $50,000 in legal fees in 2011, which does not include the estimated $35,000 the city’s insurance company paid to defend city officials. Another $25,000 is budgeted for 2012.