City puts Clerk-Treasurer on paid administrative leave

Word on the streets of Tower Minnesota, Monday June 17, was that Mayor Orlyn Kringstad was “going to get Linda Keith,” during a Special Meeting called for that evening just moments before his deadline to do so late Friday.

Nearly 20 people, most clearly not residents of Tower, packed the city council chambers at 5:30. to attend this last minute special meeting. It was clear Kringstad drummed up support

At a few moments past 5:30 in the evening a clearly addled Tower Mayor Orlyn Kringstad opened the meeting: “Good Evening everyone. Welcome to this Special Meeting of the Tower City Council—April 17, 19 … I’m sorry 2019. I almost got that backwards, the mayor bumbled before explaining that he would offer opening remarks.

In these remarks Kringstad explained how he had come to the conclusions he reached before lobbying other city council members to implement his agenda at this special meeting, currently before the city council.

A copy of the Mayor’s is prepared remarks, and other documents which he presented to the city council are available for review at

The audience was cautioned that outbursts, or other out-of-order talking would be called out. The mayor also announced that an employee whose work performance is to be discussed in a public meeting of the city council can be excluded from the meeting, yet offered City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith the option to attend, or not as she sees fit.

“We leave that choice up to the City Clerk, I assume Linda, that you want to remain in the meeting?” Mayor Kringstad asked.

“At this point, with such short notice, you denied my right to representation,” Keith answered.

The mayor responded by saying that his request for a public meeting came before 4:30 in the afternoon Friday.

“Linda stated that she has been denied representation, I reject that,” Kringstad responded justifying the special meeting, stating that Keith will have a future opportunity to a full hearing. The Mayor also said that the city charter gave the council authority to exclude Keith, and her council, as adequate reasoning to continue with the present meeting.

The Mayor then read into the record a letter he prepared, which he said will be sent to Keith’s union representation the following morning, utilizing it as evidence that, adequate notice and proper process was being followed.

The city council continued with its meeting moving forward to accepting public input.

City Attorney Andy Peterson was the first to speak explaining his reasoning behind his firm’s decision to decline to become involved in legal issues of the city as they relate to its employees and elected officials citing a need for Cope & Peterson, Virginia, Minn., to remain neutral when advising the city.

Kringstad then asked Peterson his opinion on how he should handle a certain public information request he had received some weeks ago seeking specific email correspondence on the city’s email server. Peterson affirmed that it was likely that the public information request need be completed. The Mayor agreed to meet with Peterson to determine if any aspects of the correspondence should be considered data private.

Marshall Helmberger then told the city council that Mark Anfinson (a twin cities attorney) had informed him that the name of public information requestors was typically public but acknowledged there were no clear precedents in public document law.

This reporter spoke next, informing Kringstad that I well may have requested the information which he discussed several weeks ago. I reminded him that when I made the request directly to him though his official mayor’s office email he scoffed at me and denied having received or participated in the referenced correspondence because one letter was misspelled in his name. This reporter also took this opportunity to remind the city council that it was obligated to provide copies of the documents currently upon its table to the press and make them available for any interested party and the city clerk typically did so in advance of the meeting.

The Mayor was prepared and proffered a packet immediately.

Jeff Hill spoke next questioning the status of the charter.

“When was that (2015 charter) voted on and is it necessary for a charter city to have the charter voted on?” Hill asked.

“I think the citizens have a right to vote on that charter” according to what it (the city charter) says,” Hill said, reminding the city that if the 2015 charter was not properly implemented the city was obligated to operate under the specifics of the old charter. Hill further reminded Kringstad that the information on these procedures was available in the mayor’s handbook.

Mayor Kringstad attempted to dismiss Hill’s concerns noting that any charter issue was settled four years ago.

“Why it didn’t get voted on? I don’t know but there are a lot of things that we don’t have a explanation for,” Hill said.

Supervisor Rachel Beldo, said that she absolutely wanted to hear citizen concerns, suggested that Hill put his concerns in writing.

“Your attorney is right here—that is my question, Is the charter supposed to be voted on?” Hill concluded.

An answer was not forthcoming, however Mayor Kringstad moved to the next item on the agenda promissing that the question would be considered at some other time.

The Mayor commenced reading his litany of complaints against the City Clerk

The Mayor’s chief complaints include:

  • Term date changes on city boards and commissions
  • Marshall Helmberger’s removal from the Tower Economic Development Authority
  • Concerns relating to city council and Gundersen Trust minutes not posted on the city’s website
  • Concerns over a lack of action on past auditor recommendations
  • Alleged breach of the Mayor’s email security
  • Alterations to city documents
  • and numerous other complaints

Mayor Kringstad also reported that Helmberger filed a criminal complaint against former Mayor Josh Carslon, Clerk Keith and former City Councilor Kevin Fitton with St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin as evidence that the Tower City-Clerk Treasurer must be placed upon administrative leave, with pay, until the city council conducts its own investigation.

In light of the accusations, and what will obviously become a lengthy process, not one city council member seemed surprised by Kringstad’s agenda and recommendations. The city council seemed prepared to, and did, unanimously approve every motion put forth by the Mayor.

A review of a YouTube video of the meeting clearly demonstrates that the city council likely violated open meeting laws with the Mayor conducting serial open meeting violations while talking with councilors outside of city council chambers prior to this meeting. This is a practice which Kringstad has before been accused and partly answers why the city received two resignations scarcely three months following the seating of the Mayor.

The Mayor said that there was “probable cause” to believe that a crime has taken place, offering the search warrant approved by Judge Gary Paglacetti, 6th District State of Minnesota Court, Virginia, Minn. as proof.

Kringstad said that the warrant was served upon TechBytes, Eveleth, (the city’s email server) and may be served upon city offices at a future time.

“This as a council raises questions of honesty and questions of failing to abide by the directives of the Tower City Council,” Kringstad said, seeking a motion to:

Place the City Clerk-Treasurer on paid administrative leave while an investigation is undertaken by the city council and until such time the St. Louis county Attorney completes his investigation.

—Motion by Mary Shedd / Seconded by Sheldon Majerle—passed 5-0

Before voting Supervisor Beldo asked if the council would be hiring an investigator. Kringsatd said that the city charter outlines a responsibility that the city council conduct the investigation.

The Tower City council, in other actions, approved the following motions…

  • Approved requesting the City Clerk-Treasurer turn over any Tower city hall office keys, and other city items.

—Motion by Beldo/ Seconded by Steve Abrahamson—passed 5-0

  • Initiate an investigation by the city council into allegations and mishandling of the City Clerk-Treasurer responsibilities, certain instances of insubordination and attempting to derail Tower Harbor Shores and other city economic development opportunities

—Motion by Majerle, Seconded by Shedd—5-0

  • Request a forensic audit of city and Gundersen Trust funds and forest land sales and distribution of funds acquired .

—passed with unanimous support

  • Approved hiring Ann Lamppa as a temporary City Clerk-Treasurer at an hourly rate prorated from the budgeted rate currently paid to the Clerk-Treasurer placed on paid leave

—passed with unanimous support

  • Moved to call Biss Locks, Virgina, Minn. on Tuesday morning to arrange rekeying the Tower City office and City Hall locks and redistribute new keys to authorized parties

—passed with unanimous support

  • Moved to instruct Tech Bytes, Eveleth to change passwords on city internet access accounts and emails

—passed with unanimous support

  • Approved Mayor Kringstad’s suggestion that the city council task its City employee relations committee to recommend procedures to be adopted by the city council to secure both employee files and ambulance patient files.

—passed with unanimous support

  • Once the Mayor suggested approving a final motion to allow the city employee relations committee to access the City-Clerk-Treasurer’s employment file.

—passed with unanimous support

  • A approved appointing Abrahamson as interim Zoning Administrator

—passed with unanimous support

  • Tabled the final agenda item regarding Reorganization of city committees and boards

—passed with unanimous support

  • Adjourned.
  • ****
  • At the conclusion of the special city meeting reached out to Erick Skoog, City-Clerk-Treasurer Keith’s Teamsters union representation, who agreed to talk with us and provide the following statement:

“From the onset, The mayor has shown his incompetence as a leader and this is nothing more than a public lynching without proper due process as his actions are a smokescreen to the greater issues facing the city of Tower. Further, it is my understanding that two council members recently resigned due to his incompetence. I love the City of Tower and feel bad that the citizens were duped by his personal agenda. It’s too bad that there is not a legal “fitness for duty“ for elected officials because I am certain that he is not fit to lead the City of Tower.”


Following the city council meeting, Mayor Kringstad, Councilors Majerley and Shedd continued to meet in the city council chambers for more than an hour-and-a-half. It is not know if Beldo and Abrahamson remained behind.

This action, continuing city business following adjournment, in the darkening late evening is a willful violation of open meeting laws by Mayor Kringstad and his new city council appointees.

It is assumed that someone at this post-meeting meeting authorized Biss Lock to change city hall locks committing the city to after hours charges. In earlier conversation, conducted in the light-of-day, while the city council was discussing a motion to change locks, it was determined that the city would wait until morning as a frugality.