Also, Baird doesn’t think City should have to pay $7,180 legal bill
Two weeks after the Crookston City Council’s Ways & Means Committee approved a new agreement between the City, Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau regarding the working arrangement between the agencies and how much CVB lodging tax revenue the Chamber utilizes, the two resolutions on Monday evening’s council agenda each died for lack of a second to a motion to approve. As a result, it’s likely that the matter is headed back to the council committee for further discussion.
The two resolutions were on the council’s consent agenda, which is typically comprised of resolutions that are approved in a single council vote. Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten asked that both be removed from the consent agenda and added to the regular agenda to be considered separately and individually. When that happened, each resolution garnered a motion to approve from a council member, but did not garner the second of the motion necessary to trigger a full council vote.
One resolution authorized an agreement for administrative services with the Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce. The agreement, around a decade old, was recommended for an update by the East Grand Forks city attorney, who launched an investigation in the fall when it was learned that Chamber Executive Director Amanda Lien had been taking 20 percent of lodging tax revenue for the Chamber’s use from the CVB lodging tax revenue, instead of the 15 percent stated in the agreement. Attorney Ron Galstad’s probe found that Lien committed no intentional wrongdoing or malfeasance, and that what transpired amounted to a mistake and/or an oversight.
Lien has since submitted her resignation so she can pursue her masters degree.
Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee said there were some seemingly minor things he saw in the proposed agreement that wanted to discuss further, such as the CVB Board of Directors having a Chamber representative on it with voting credentials. Fee said he thought the Chamber member should be ex-officio in nature, meaning the person could offer input and participate in discussions, but not vote on any matters. “I’d like a couple other possible changes discussed, too,” he added.
The second resolution that died for lack of a second Monday was to “ratify prior acts for Agreement with Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce for Administrative Services for Convention and Visitors Bureau.” Asked by the Times after the meeting what that amounts to, City Finance Director Angel Weasner said the ratification would essentially amount to everyone agreeing that mistakes were made, but that everyone is ready to put it behind them and move on.
Fee said the ratification component was “never brought in front of us.”
Ward 5 Council Member and Vice Mayor Dale Stainbrook, sitting in for Mayor Wayne Melbye who is out of town, nipped further discussion in the bud, saying both resolutions were “dead” at least for Monday and there was no point in debating them further.
Costs for investigation
The City has received invoices for the costs related to Galstad’s investigation and they total $7,180. Weasner said Monday that the money will come from the City’s “substitute attorney account” because the investigation passed onto the EGF attorney in order to avoid any conflicts of interest was “over and above and outside of our normal scope.”
To that, At Large Council Member Bobby Baird wondered, “Why is the City paying for it? The City was never accused of anything.”
It was Baird, who, upon learning of the Chamber/CVB funding discrepancy last October, notified state officials and asked for an investigation. As a public official, he said he was following statute requiring him to report wrongdoing.
Weasner said the City is paying the bill because it was requested that the City look into the matter, and in order to do so, outside legal counsel needed to be retained. “This was our agreement with the Chamber,” she said.
“I still don’t see why we’re paying for it,” Baird responded.
Stainbrook and Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson each said the matter could be debated further in the future, but for now the bill needs to be paid, and they told Weasner to pay it.