Conflict erupts at meetingThe Stutsman County Commission meeting grew contentious before the first agenda item was introduced Tuesday. Commissioner Craig Neys asked why Noel Johnson, county chief operating officer, was present.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The Stutsman County Commission meeting grew contentious before the first agenda item was introduced Tuesday.
Commissioner Craig Neys asked why Noel Johnson, county chief operating officer, was present.
“Why is Johnson here?” he asked. “I recall he announced his retirement as of May 1. Correct me if I’m wrong.”
Johnson replied he did not need to be there and left.
Discussion within the chambers stopped while commission Chairman Mark Klose and Vice Chairman Denny Ova left the meeting to talk with Johnson. They returned in a few minutes with Renee Valenta, audit support assistant, who served as recording secretary for the meeting.
The incident traces back to the April 5 commission meeting when Johnson announced his retirement “as soon as possible.” He then criticized the commission, some county staff and some of the visitors at the meeting.
“I didn’t appreciate his outburst at the last meeting,” Neys said. “I’ve been ticked off. It’s been boiling for a couple of weeks.”
Neys took issue with Johnson saying earlier that he was “baby-sitting” the commission.
“Nobody changed my diaper this morning,” Neys said.
He also said he did not ask Johnson to leave the meeting — only to explain his presence.
The four other commissioners seemed taken by surprise by the conflict.
“Kind of a bombshell,” Klose said. “Unexpected — I hope we can work this out.”
Other commission members defended Johnson and said no retirement time was mentioned.
“I don’t recall a particular date in the discussion,” said Commissioner Dale Marks. “We need to get through the appraisal process and weather issues with FEMA. We need his expertise.”
Johnson said after the meeting he had not anticipated the comments.
“I was taken by surprise,” he said. “I did announce my retirement as soon as possible but I’m trying to work with the commission and staff to make it as smooth as possible. I’m not going to abandon ship.”
Neys said the announcement should be interpreted as immediate.
“As far as I’m concerned he’s retiring as soon as possible,” he said.
As for the meeting, the commission opened one bid for the road project at the Gavilon Grain Elevator. Border States Paving submitted a $785,000 bid, which was less than the engineer’s $825,000 estimate.
Gavilon will pay for the paving project to improve access roads near its facility.
Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state’s attorney, suggested a contract binding Gavilon to pay for the road is established before the bid is awarded.
The commission also scheduled a special meeting for 7 a.m. Wednesday at the commission chamber to review the contract with Gavilon and to consider bids received for three emergency road-raise projects.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com