Port: A North Dakota cop seized a journalist’s cellphone. The public is owed more than an apology


MINOT, N.D. — Not so long ago I was writing a series of stories about an abusive and unprofessional city manager working, at the time, for the City of Minot.

Among my sources for those stories were city employees who were speaking to me on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution from the manager, Tom Barry, and his friend, Mayor Shaun Sipma.

It turned out their fears were justified. At one point Barry marched several city employees into a police interrogation room and grilled them on whether or not they’d been speaking to me. They were even asked to sign documents indicating whether or not they’d spoken to me.

The intent of those actions was to scare city employees away from speaking to a member of the news media like me.

That was wrong. Barry’s actions ultimately led the City of Minot to terminate his employment. He got a cushy payout from the taxpayers, thanks to some changes to his employment contract he negotiated with Sipma, and a new job working for Beltrami County in Minnesota.

I bring up the Barry fiasco as a way to illustrate that I understand what it’s like to be the target of intimidation efforts from the government. It’s why I sympathize with Tom Simon, a radio reporter working in Williston who recently had his phone seized by a cop who was demanding to know who his sources are.

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