Change needed in mayor’s office
Curt Zimbelman , Minot Mayor 2002-14
Chuck Barney , Minot Mayor 2014-18
During the 2018 mayoral campaign Shaun Sipma campaigned on improved transparency with the city. Since taking office, the opposite has occurred. During council meetings the public was often turned away from the podium and not allowed to provide input to issues that were being discussed. This was best illustrated when former Alderman Tim Greenheck was turned away when trying to comment on the Tom Barry fiasco and when Park Board Commissioner, Cliff Hovda, wasn’t allowed to speak when the council was deciding whether to hire an investigator to look into the city’s hostile work environment. It seems if the speaker doesn’t support the Mayor’s agenda they aren’t allowed to address the council.
During the last four years, there have been two Attorney General opinions stating that the city violated open meetings laws.
The first was a council “retreat” held in Washburn with no press and at a distance that was too far away for most citizens to attend. The city clerk wasn’t there so no minutes were taken, even though city business was conducted. At this improper meeting, the decision was made that the city would not act on Patty Eizenzimmer’s issue on double costs for inspections in the two mile extraterritorial zone. This issue was eventually resolved when the legislature made the city’s policy illegal.
The second was when the city refused to honor a Freedom of Information request for documents related to the Tom Barry dismissal. Again, the Attorney General ruled against the city and ordered them to release the documents.
In our collective memory we don’t remember any time when the city had open records violations until the arrival of the current administration. Two open meeting law violations are not reflective of a transparent government.
The mayor submitted a late agenda change for an inappropriate contract that was completely in the favor of former city manager Tom Barry. The new contract ended up costing the city a great deal of money when Barry was fired just four months later.
This brings us to the latest Sipma issue. Apparently, in March of this year EPIC Companies donated $2,500.00 to Sipma’s reelection campaign. Shortly after the donation was recorded, EPIC applied for a Tax Increment Financing tax incentive to support their renovation of the “M” building in Downtown Minot. They ended up receiving $2,250,000 in tax incentives.
Don’t misunderstand us, we agree with the EPIC project but believe it is very unseemly and wrong for the Mayor to accept money while he is lobbying and voting for the TIF. Indeed, it is illegal, and a class A misdemeanor. Apparently Sipma said he would return the money and didn’t know it was illegal. That concerns us because even if it was legal, it is still wrong and he should know that. His lack of judgement and lack of transparency indicates a change is needed in the mayor’s office.
Vote for change.