Mayor’s authority questioned on staff work on hospital project, other itemsThe mayor’s authority came into question on a number of issues at the City Council meeting Monday. Mayor Clarice Liechty objected to Councilman Pat Nygaard signing the resolution authorizing a $75,000 Flex PACE interest buy down for Buffalo City Diesel. During the mayor’s report, Liechty said she wouldn’t sign the resolution until she had additional documentation on Dean Hafner’s financial information.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
The mayor’s authority came into question on a number of issues at the City Council meeting Monday.
Mayor Clarice Liechty objected to Councilman Pat Nygaard signing the resolution authorizing a $75,000 Flex PACE interest buy down for Buffalo City Diesel. During the mayor’s report, Liechty said she wouldn’t sign the resolution until she had additional documentation on Dean Hafner’s financial information.
Hafner and Allen Enterprises are constructing a new building for the repair business in the I-94 Business Park.
“I requested of Jeff (Fuchs, city administrator) proper financial documentation before I signed the resolution,” she said. “Councilman Nygaard signed the resolution as president of the council. Do we have proper documentation from Mr. Hafner?”
Nygaard said the resolution the council approved did not require documentation by Hafner. Nor did the council ask for any financial documentation from him.
“The documentation was not necessary,” Nygaard said.
Hafner said after the meeting that the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. had his financial information when making its decision. That information was available to the council and Stutsman County Commission members. Also, Fuchs told the mayor later that as a JSDC Board member, she could have requested that information from that body.
Despite her position as a JSDC Board member, the mayor argued during several city meetings that the council did not have Hafner’s financial information. The council did have Kevin Thoele’s, who owns Buffalo City Diesel. He will start repaying the JSDC in 20 years for its funding in the PACE program.
Councilwoman Kelani Parisien asked the mayor to clarify the situation for her.
“Is this where you declared a conflict of interest?” Parisien said.
The mayor blamed the JSDC for not listing Crossroads Repair as a competitor. Liechty holds a mortgage on the business.
Nygaard also questioned the mayor’s authority in directing city staff to stop work on the James-town Regional Medical Center project. Nygaard said she overstepped her authority without agreement from the rest of the council.
“Without the consent of the council you have directed staff to stop working on the project,” he said.
Liechty said she wanted staff to stop working until the city has letters of intent from the landowners on easements that will be needed to run the hospital’s sewer line. She said city staff has enough other projects to work on. The city should wait for the letters of intent before participating in writing easements.
Parisien said according to the city attorney, the procedure for easements in this case is the same as in the past. Steve Aldinger of Interstate Engineering said at the council meeting that he had sent the easement drafts to the Jamestown Hospital attorney, the Montana Dakota Utilities attorney and, as a courtesy, City Attorney Ken Dalsted. He’s also kept the four landowners informed of the progress.
“The plan is to have a document to present to the landowners,” said Councilman Ken Schulz.
“If I were a property owner I would prefer to have a document to look at,” Nygaard said.
Schulz noted as he chairs the Building, Planning and Zoning Committee, it would be considered his responsibility to work administratively with staff on a project such as this.
“You have no authority to tell individuals to stop work without bringing it to the council,” he said to the mayor. “This is about taking on a responsibility that belongs to the council.”
The mayor argued she has the authority to direct staff. It’s in Fuchs’ job description, she said, that he operates under the mayor’s administrative direction. Parisien said, according to the attorney general, the mayor has no more authority than the rest of the council. She suggested placing Fuchs’ job description on the Finance and Legal Committee agenda to add “council” to it.
The council voted 4-1 to put Fuchs’ job description on the committee’s agenda. The mayor voted against it.
The mayor was also outvoted when she wanted to send back to committee the JSDC reimbursement for sanitary sewer line maintenance from the Ag and Food Processing Park. She said she wanted to ask the JSDC for the full 100 percent originally requested rather than the 50 percent it agreed to.
The sewer line, which serves only Cavendish Farms at this time, has required extensive maintenance due to the type of wastewater going through it. Paying the city 100 percent of the cost of maintenance should be seen as jobs retention by the JSDC, the mayor said.
Parisien, Nygaard and Schulz disagreed with the mayor, saying the JSDC’s offer was more than fair. The JSDC owns a portion of the park and agreed to pay for half of the maintenance costs.
“The JSDC is not required to do this,” Schulz said. “They showed good faith in offering to pay 50 percent of this.”
On a 3-2 vote, Councilman Charlie Kourajian and the mayor voted for requesting 100 percent reimbursement again. When that lost, the vote was 4-1 to approve the resolution as it stands, with Kourajian voting in the majority.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com