A Cloquet city councilor was involved in a physical altercation with another bar patron that required a response by the Cloquet Police Department.
Police responded to a call at about 5:20 p.m. Aug. 27 at The Jack to an incident involving Ward 5 City Councilor Steve Langley, 49, and Brian Vanderwerff, 47.
Vanderwerff called police after Langley allegedly shoved him to the floor following a confrontation between the two.
Two police officers arrived on the scene and took statements from witnesses — including Adam Bailey, owner of The Jack — as well as Langley and Vanderwerff, according to the incident report. The report also stated Bailey asked Vanderwerff to leave the bar and not return.
In a statement emailed to local media, Langley claimed Vanderwerff was “intoxicated” and began harassing him because of a “difference in opinion with my stance on some issues as a City Councilor.”
Langley said Vanderwerff followed him into the bathroom, where Vanderwerff yelled at him for approximately three minutes, and continued as he tried to return to his stool at the bar.
“He raised his arm and I acted to protect myself by pushing him away, which resulted in him falling on the ground, highly likely due to his consumption of alcohol,” Langley wrote. “As he laid on the floor he yelled, ‘look what this City Councilor did to me.’”
In a statement sent to the Pine Journal, Vanderwerff disputed Langley’s version of events. Vanderwerff said he initially purchased a beer for Langley and asked Langley for a private conversation in the smoking area outside the building.
Vanderwerff said he followed Langley into the bathroom and asked why Langley was “spreading rumors” that Vanderwerff worked “for the cops.”
“I followed him out of the bathroom back to our seats at the bar, when suddenly he turned around and pushed me to the ground,” Vanderwerff said.
“It had nothing to do with any of his issues as a City Councilor,” Vanderwerff wrote. “It was about defaming and slandering me publicly — I never laid hands on him or threatened him.”
Vanderwerff also disputed Langley’s claim he was intoxicated. Vanderwerff said he drank a “bloody mary and half a beer” over the course of an hour, while he “watched” Langley drink four beers.
The police report said it was forwarding all the statements and evidence it found at the scene to City Attorney Frank Yetka to review for charges.
The incident is the second physical altercation involving Langley at The Jack. On Nov. 5, 2018, Don Gentilini, of Cloquet, reported a dispute with Langley. According to a Carlton County Sheriff’s Office incident report, the pair argued over an issue regarding the Cloquet Area Hockey Association, where Gentilini serves as board president.
The report says Langley began poking Gentilini in the chest and then swung at Gentilini with a beer can. Langley missed, according to the report, but in the ensuing altercation, he grabbed the chain around Gentilini’s neck and broke it.
No charges were filed in the incident.
Langley also accused former Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande of assault and disorderly conduct regarding a confrontation July 16, 2018, at L&M Fleet Supply in Cloquet. Then-Cloquet Police Chief Jeff Palmer forwarded the report to the Grand Rapids Police Department for investigation, but the independent law firm Dryer and Overom found insufficient evidence to warrant charges.
The City Council voted to censure Langley in June 2019 after an independent investigation substantiated claims of misconduct. In a complaint filed with the city of Cloquet, Lamirande claimed Langley falsely accused him of crimes — including the incident at L&M Fleet Supply.
He also claimed Langley engaged in a pattern of intimidation by sending unwanted text messages and contacting Stephanie Hammitt, the president of Cloquet's Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, where Lamirande is the law enforcement program coordinator.
This story was updated at 7:56 p.m. on Sept. 8 with details from a statement Vanderwerff provided to the Pine Journal. It was originally posted at 3 p.m. on Sept. 4.