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Group irked by Piepkorn's refugee stance wants him recalled from office

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Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn asks for an accounting of what the refugee resettlement in the Fargo area is costing during the Commission meeting Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service2 / 2

FARGO — A group upset with City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn's views on refugee resettlement is organizing an effort to recall him from office.

Ali Kuno, a 29-year-old Fargo resident, said he and others are aiming to gather enough signatures to trigger a special election for Piepkorn's seat.

Phone messages left for Piepkorn on Thursday, March 2, were not returned.

"He's always against the refugees," said Kuno, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya in 2012. "All the refugees I know, they are working people. They are paying taxes."

Piepkorn has complained local governments have no say in how refugees are resettled and yet are left paying for services to help the new residents. He also supported a North Dakota House bill that would have let communities seek suspensions of refugee resettlement. The bill has since been amended to an interim study.

Abdiwali Sharif, who came to the U.S. as a Somali refugee, said he's part of the group pushing for a recall. He said Fargo is a welcoming city and that Piepkorn is not supporting diversity.

"We want a leader that represents the whole of Fargo, not just part of Fargo," Sharif said.

Hukun Abdullahi, executive director of the Afro American Development Association in Moorhead, announced the recall effort Thursday on WDAY radio. He said organizers have met a couple of times but have not yet started collecting signatures.

"Right now, we are building a strong case to do the recall against Dave Piepkorn," Abdullahi told The Forum. "He's being divisive and creating hate between the community."

City Auditor Steve Sprague said he did not yet know the exact number of signatures needed for a special election. Though, he said the group would have to collect at least 3,218 signatures from Fargo residents eligible to vote.

If the Secretary of State's Office approves the recall petition, the group would have 90 days to gather the necessary signatures. Sprague's office would have 30 days to verify the signatures once they're submitted. If there are enough, a special election would be held within 95 to 105 days, he said.

The recall effort would have to move quickly to put Piepkorn’s seat on a special election ballot. Under state rules, an official whose seat will be up for election within a year cannot be recalled, Sprague said. In Piepkorn's case, he's up for re-election to another four-year term in June 2018, so a special election could not happen after June 2017.

Piepkorn was first elected to the City Commission in June 2008 and served until 2012. He was re-elected in 2014.

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