WEST FARGO — Police here are investigating a potential criminal matter involving the recently fired assistant public works director.
According to a city memo released Friday, Oct. 4, Assistant Director Ryan James was fired on Monday, Sept. 16, by Public Works Director Chris Brungardt and City Administrator Tina Fisk after the two met with him to discuss his lack of professionalism and leadership.
On Friday, City Spokeswoman Melissa Richard said James is currently under a criminal investigation by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. She said the BCI was handling the criminal investigation to avoid a potential conflict of interest with the West Fargo Police.
She could not specify what type of potential crimes were under investigation.
James could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Shortly after James' termination, Brungardt handed in a resignation letter on Thursday, Sept. 19, which was supposed to be effective Dec. 31, 2019.
"After the internal investigation, (Brungardt) offered a letter of resignation," Richard said.
Richard said Brungardt's resignation is still under review, but he has not returned to work. She also said she could not comment on whether Brungardt is currently on leave.
On Friday, the city released heavily redacted notes of conversations with Fisk, Human Resources Director Jenna Wilm and public works employees that claim poor leadership and performance by Brungardt and James.
Richard said the city had completed an internal investigation into the two, but police have opened a criminal investigation.
Brungardt was hired in July 1996 as an engineering assistant and served as assistant director of public works for about seven years before becoming director in 2013. His personnel file included numerous letters of commendation, and annual reviews recorded his performance as meeting or exceeding most categories. But, it also included an August 2018 written warning regarding his leadership style and complaints from public works staff for not dealing with complaints regarding James.
The city first hired James in 2008 as a sewer and water staff member. He returned in November 2013 as an equipment operator, then became operations manager, a title that was adjusted to assistant director of public works.
In a September phone interview, Brungardt told The Forum he had just decided it was time for a change.
"Being in that position (as director) is a tough position," he said. "It is a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. I just didn't like who I was becoming. I just needed to change things up and become a better person, a better father and spend more time with my family."