Attorney firing was illegal

Robert L. Hale, Minot

The recent unilateral, illegally implemented and clumsy firing of the new city attorney should wake us up. It highlights how a governing body operates when it believes it is above the law. For 20-plus years I’ve watched the inbred power structure in Minot ignore the public, do whatever it wished and strong-arm any opposition.

When Bob Schempp retired as city manager, the committee appointed to find a replacement selected an individual who was not from the Minot area. The selection was based on finding new blood and an open-minded manager injecting fresh ideas at how the city government operated. Unfortunately, the power structure in place rejected the selection and instead put in place the protege of Schempp.

The city of Minot power structure works on the basis that the rules apply unless they don’t. And the rules don’t apply anytime they interfere with what Minot’s power structure finds inconvenient.

For example, a few years ago the city was caught diverting more than a million dollars from the NAWS local option sales tax fund into its general fund. When challenged and asked to put the money back the mayor refused and said if you don’t like it sue us. The city was sued, lost and was required to put the money back.

When the city decided to create a full-time city attorney position a few years ago, I wondered how it would work, knowing the selectee would likely do as asked and not be permitted to use his/her independent judgment if it conflicted with city leaders. The appointee has recently retired. The city council did a search for his replacement. We just learned that the acting city manager fired the new replacement. It appears the firing was done as is all too often the case illegally and using intimidation in an effort to see the person leave quietly.

With any luck this unfortunate event may provide an opportunity to shine the light on a very dysfunctional and out-of-control city government. It’s long past time for major reform. Minot needs new blood, new thinking and leadership that understands it is the people, not special interests and self-appointed demagogues, they represent.

Minot is, after decades of no growth, growing. If we are to grow reasonably and rationally we need leaders who are not purely self-interested. We need leaders who understand that laws are in place for all of us to follow.

I would like to extend a thank you to Colleen Auer for her willingness to stand up and demand Minot’s city government follow the law. It’s time we shine a bright light on our city leaders and power brokers and hold them accountable. If they are unwilling to be scrutinized, then they need to slink away into the dark holes where they belong.