The Fargo City Commission Approved A Bad Buyout And Now They're Embarrassed About It

Forum file photo of Don and Mary Kinzler home.

Tonight the Fargo City Commission gave final approval to a sweetheart of a buyout for the Kinzler home, property the city needs for its on-going build out of flood protection.

The Kinzler family got to triple dip on the taxpayer’s dime. Not only did they get $565,000 for their property, a value set by an independent appraiser (the tax assessed value was significantly lower), but the City of Fargo is paying to move the building structure to a new lot (also paid for by the city) and the city paid off roughly $68,000 worth of mortgage remaining on the property.

The total payout came to almost $840,000.

That’s like buying somebody’s car, and then letting them keep the car, and then giving them some money to boot. I don’t blame the Kinzler’s at all for taking that deal, but it sure looks like a raw deal for the taxpayers.

And it sure seems like the commissioners who voted for the deal are feeling a little sheepish.

The generous buyout was discussed by the commission in executive session, but now that the deal is done two commissioners – Tony Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn, who have also voted against the deal – want the recording of that discussion released to the public. But the majority on the commission – Mayor Tim Mahoney and commissioners Melissa Sobolik and Mike Williams – voted the request down:

FARGO — City commissioners voted 3-2 Monday, June 6, to receive and file a purchase agreement to buy a 121-year-old home and land for nearly $840,000 and move the home to a new site to make way for a levee on Rose Creek Golf Course in south Fargo.

 That decision came after a motion by Commissioner Tony Gehrig to also release audio recordings of two executive sessions on the buyout deal failed by a 2-3 vote.

I had requested the recordings last week and city attorney Erik Johnson declined my request. I had planned to file an open records complaint, but my employers at Forum Communications beat me to it.

I asked Gehrig some questions about the closed door session, and why his colleagues who voted for the deal wouldn’t want it made public, and he admitted to being a bit flummoxed by it.

“The deal is done, there is no reason to keep this from the public,” he said. “The audio shows five commissioners sitting in a room trying to do what is best for Fargo, and two of us disagreed with what was proposed.”

“There is nothing on the tapes that should be secret or kept from our boss, the tax paying public,” he added.

Agree with the Kinzler deal or not, I don’t think the commissioners who voted in favor of it are doing themselves any favor by trying to keep the discussion of it under wraps.

And I suspect, when the Attorney General’s office weighs in, we’re going to find that the city is in the wrong when it comes to keeping those recordings a secret.

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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