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Competence, Ethics, Conflicts of Interest and Moral Turpitude

Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof

It’s been quite a week with all the pro’s and con’s weighing in on Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof’s request for up to $6,500 per month ($25-$100/hr) in compensation for the Oxbow Job Development Authority to handle contracts nebulous to the proposed OHB ring-dike-levee project, including streets, lots, infrastructure and levee design.

I serve as a community representative to Bakke residents, and Mike Bice serves as a representative to Hickson, we participate in the weekly design meetings to ensure our community interests are protected and preserved without compensation – save for the occasional thank you and handshake. The proposed ring-dike-levee does not protect a community…, it protects special interests and purported land valuations of a select few and does little to better the community at large.

As a matter of record, and under protest, Bakke and Hickson residents have requested only two primary things. To ensure the ring-dike-levee does not exacerbate snow accumulation on the homes along the north side and that internal drainage and pumps have the capacity to prevent internal flooding as a result of the man-made basin created by the ring-dike. The bulk of the $65-$70 million tax burden is a result of Oxbow demands driving the tax-burden higher for Fargo or Cass county residents.

It wasn’t long after the design meetings commenced in the fall of 2013, when Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof requested that the golf course section of the levee remain open for the convenience of golfers until the new replacement golf course holes are completed.

What a strange request to present if this project were truly about needed independent flood control. Why would the Mayor of Oxbow request the largest open reach exposed on the river side across the golf course to remain open if the contrived story is to prevent the inundation of the community?

Let’s set aside the apparent conflict to community flood protection and fast forward to last week.

The creation of Oxbow Job Development Authority, which caught many by surprise created questions, initiated comments, phone calls and emails…, the most common question was what are your thoughts?

After considerable ruminating and research, I cannot help but provide this response.

There is no question, the amount of work to move a community is daunting. To expect someone to serve in a capacity with such importance without compensation is selfish. The hours added to a work schedules, taken from family and social lives while all other entities creating this workload draw compensation for creating turmoil in our lives – seems non-advantageous.

That being said, serving ones community in general in an elected volunteer capacity – is something that can be relinquished at any time.

So it raises the question: how can a Job Development Authority be created via a quasi elected volunteer process then be voted upon by members serving in that capacity to request compensation for their own benefit?

It really boils down to – what do these 7 Oxbow Job Development Authority members bring to the table in area of qualifications and expertise germane to roles they’ve created and which they’ve requested to be compensated. What will prevent mission creep from milking the tax-payer system for arbitrary conflicts that would undoubtedly arise.

There has to be some form of rules and regulations governing things of this nature…, and lo and behold there is. It is the North Dakota Century code. The basic laws of our state in printed form for all to read.

CHAPTER 40-57.4 CITY JOB DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITIES

40-57.4-02. Members of the city job development authority board of directors – Term of office – Oath – Expenses.The members of the city job development authority board of directors shall serve for a term of three years or until their successors are duly qualified. Terms of office shall begin on January first and must be arranged so that the terms of office of approximately one-third of the members expire on December thirty-first each year. Each member of the board shall qualify by taking the oath provided for civil officers. The oath must be filed with the city auditor. The board of directors shall annually elect members to serve as chairman, vice chairman, secretary, and treasurer. They shall also select an executive committee with such powers and duties as may be delegated by the board of directors. Members may be reimbursed from funds available to the authority for mileage and expenses at the rates provided for state employees in sections 44-08-04 and 54-06-09 but members may receive no compensation for service.

 

Should Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof's request for $6,500 per month in compensation for the Oxbow Job Development Authority be granted?

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It sure doesn’t sound like a grey area at all. So how can such a fundamental point of state law be ignored by the Oxbow city council, Job Development Authority and Fargo Diversion Authority?

With all the lawyers involved in the proposed project, how did something so basic slip by un-detected?

Where was sage legal advice from Joseph A. Turman of Turman & Lang, Ltd. attorney for the City of Oxbow in this matter? Better yet, how did all the legal counsels for the Fargo Diversion Authority allow this matter to get this far?

Is this a far-fetched scheme to create an independent paper trail surrounding the OHB ring-dike-levee project in hopes of manufacturing evidence to pull the wool over the MN DNR’s eyes?

Is this the level of competence, ethics, conflicts of interest and moral turpitude we’ve come to accept regarding the proposed Fargo Dam and FM Diversion project and all its extended features, such as the Oxbow Hickson Bakke ring-dike-levee, which provides NO independent utility.

Maybe the players in this matter received bad legal advice, or maybe they’ve acted upon their own accord. Either way, the Fargo Diversion Authority and Oxbow Job Development Authority are way beyond their depth, fiscally reckless and appear to be not compliant with state law in this matter.

What strikes me the most odd in all this…, is that it got by the ethical filters of all the parties involved.

If it’s true that what we do in little, we do in great…, it begs the question, what are they up to that has further reaching implications?

Share your concerns with the ND Attorney General:

Wayne Stenehjem
State Capitol
600 E. Boulevard Ave.
Dept. 125
Bismarck, ND 58505

701-328-2210
ndag@nd.gov

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