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Math doesn't add up

Something didn't quite add up at Monday night's West Fargo City Commission meeting.

That would be how approval of a $2,500 expenditure for a feasibility study for a proposed golf course could turn into a check written for $6,500 to the Colorado-based firm handling the study.

The payment showed up in the bills Monday night. Commissioner Brenda Warren knew nothing about it, was upset and rightfully so, describing it as 'flagrant disregard' for a City Commission motion.

At their Nov. 19 meeting, Commissioners, by a 4-1 vote decided to spend the $2,500, with Warren strongly opposing, saying it was a waste of taxpayer's dollars that could be better used for City improvements.

Warren demanded to know how this change of amounts came about when no payment other than the $2,500 was discussed by the Commission. City Administrator Jim Brownlee said it was his recall, per discussion at a previous meeting, that the City would make the payment, half now and half when completed, for the cost of the study ($13,000), and be reimbursed for the amount.

Warren said she had no knowledge of any such discussion, and asked fellow commissioners if they had.

When polled individually by Warren, Commissioners Mark Simmons and Lou Bennett said it had been discussed, while Commissioner Bryan Schulz and Mayor Rich Mattern said they had no recollection.

As a member of the press present at the regular City Commission meetings, add another to the list with no recall. If terms of contract payment and paying more than $2,500 were discussed, it had to be at another meeting.

There has been lots of talk about 'the good old boy' network when it comes to the way some City decisions are handled. There were obvious signs of that Monday night in both what was and what wasn't said.

The point is, if there was dissension from any one Commissioner about moving forward with this study, the terms of the contract and how they would play out should have been discussed with the entire Board, instead of assuming the payment could be issued and that would be the end of the story.

That did not happen, and it almost appeared that the hope was for the $6,500 to slide through without anyone noticing, but somebody instead got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Such action only throws up red flags and generates ill will and mistrust, creating doubt about whether or not the truth is actually being told or skewered to fit the circumstance.

Certainly not a good way to conduct City business.