Armstrong City Council terminates clerk, hires interim mayor

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 11:31 PM CDT
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ARMSTRONG, Iowa (KEYC) — In a meeting full of debate and heated disagreement, the Armstrong City Council terminated one of two city employees on unpaid administrative leave.

Tracie Lang, who was the city clerk when she was arrested last month, was fired Monday night. Also arrested was Mayor Greg Buum, police chief Craig Merrill and two former city clerks, who face nearly two dozen joint charges involving fraud and theft of city funds.

Council members cited Armstrong’s city handbook, which says employees guilty of criminal acts are grounds for termination.

Lang has entered a guilty plea to at least one charge.

Police chief Craig Merrill has not pleaded guilty to any charges and council members moved to wait on a vote for permanent termination, leaving Merrill on unpaid administrative leave. But several citizens raised questions about whether Merrill is truly unpaid.

“He said there’d be no more pay. And then it came out in the paper the next week, there it is, paid. Now tonight again, I questioned it, we’ll see,” Armstrong resident Paul Stevens said.

Also on the agenda Monday, the city council appointed David Grussing as temporary mayor in a unanimous vote.

Grussing was chosen out of two candidates who expressed interest in the position and will hold it until November.

The vote was cast swiftly, and some residents asked why neither was given a chance to speak at a public meeting.

Those we spoke to say much of the city is fed up with the drama and the decisions behind closed doors.

“It’s sad, it’s a sad situation,” Armstrong resident Roger Weisbrod stated.

“We’re all here and we could work together. But it’s always one-sided, it’s always after the fact. It’s already happened before we know about it. That’s the problem,” Stevens added.

Several residents present at tonight’s meeting said they plan to file a petition for a special mayoral election. If they can receive at least 39 signatures in the next two weeks, a special election will be held next month, and the winner of that race will serve as Mayor of Armstrong until November.

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