Fargo, Bismarck City Commissioners Defend Letter to State Lawmakers

Rikiki Rohrich, of the North Dakota Commerce Department, testified neutral on HB 1182 on Wednesday morning in front of the House Finance & Taxation Committee. Rohrich runs the state program on Renaissance Zones. Listening at left is Bismarck city commissioner Steve Marquardt. TOM STROMME/BISMARCK TRIBUNE

Last week I published a letter Fargo City Commissioner Tony Gehrig and Bismarck City Commissioner Steve Marquardt had sent to state lawmakers concerning economic incentive programs. The letter was sent on City of Fargo letterhead, though the commissioners made it clear with the first sentence of the letter that they were representing themselves individually and not the entirety of their respective commissions.

But yesterday the Fargo Forum lashed out at the commissioners, Gehrig in particular, for supposedly misusing the letterhead (though I suspect the Forum’s real beef is their position on incentives policies).

I had both commissioners on my radio show today, and they defended their letter.

Both men argued that they, as public servants, have every right to communicate with lawmakers in an official capacity on public policy. Gehrig, specifically, pointed out that other commissioners have frequently used City of Fargo letterhead to advocate their positions on specific issues. He also said that fellow commissioner Dave Piepkorn traveled to Bismarck to testify before a legislative committee, along with City of Fargo staff, taking a position opposite Gehrig’s.

Gehrig described the Forum’s editorial as a “personal attack” calling into question his “integrity.”

Here’s the full audio:

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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