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Mattern: I take exception to Von Pinnon's portrayal of WF police chief hiring process

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Rich Mattern, West Fargo Mayor and candidate Angie Wieck / The Forum2 / 2

After going to super-secret meetings (that just happened to be attended by reporters), we are close to hiring a new police chief for the city of West Fargo. All kidding aside, in the June 7 West Fargo Pioneer and the June 8 edition of The Forum, editor Matthew Von Pinnon shared his opinion regarding the city's process to select the new chief. It's no secret among government entities that Forum Communications loves to complain about open meetings, even if people like Von Pinnon know they are wrong. But, it makes for good copy. I think the other mayors in the metro area, such as Mayor Mahoney, will agree. While I agree with Von Pinnon that this process has identified two highly qualified candidates for this position, I want to share some additional facts. These demonstrate the city of West Fargo's actions were appropriate and consistent with the law.

• Commissioners agreed to make activities June 7 and June 8 public at the Monday, June 5, City Commission meeting. A representative from Von Pinnon's organization was present when that decision was made, so why was it unclear to Von Pinnon at Wednesday's press time?

• The city released information to the media about the candidates as it was appropriate and properly reviewed and redacted of personal and military service information.

• The April 7 edition of The Forum contained an article indicating they were going to ask the North Dakota Attorney General to issue an opinion on the speed we provided the applicant information. However, they failed to report they never followed through on this. Further, our feedback from the Attorney General indicated our actions were consistent with the law.

• The same notice Von Pinnon references as the final straw included a schedule of events for the candidates' second round of interviews to help inform the public of the process—something his media organization chose not to cover for its readers.

At times, Von Pinnon has felt the city did not provide information to the speed of his liking. This led Von Pinnon to leap to the salacious, front page "news" that the city is keeping information from residents. In fact, this is a reflection of a busy city with multiple priorities and a desire to assure candidates who applied that their personal information would be protected. Yes, they are applying for a public position, but no, the media scrutiny does not need to begin five minutes after an application is submitted. Von Pinnon also indicates concern over a lack of citizen representation when the first round of interviews were conducted by city administrator Tina Fisk with the help of key personnel, including a city commissioner who is elected to provide citizen representation. Later, the City Commission will publicly vote to appoint one of these candidates as the chief of police—and we will do this as representatives of the citizens of West Fargo. Citizens contact me all the time to share opinions on matters, which impacts how I vote. If Von Pinnon or any other residents want to ensure his or her opinion is heard, I'd encourage them to reach out to any of us on the City Commission to share their perspective. I believe when this process is over, we will have identified a new leader for the police department that will safely lead us into the next generation of growth, development and success in West Fargo. Lastly, as a former 20-plus year reporter, I am all about transparency. However, I do not believe in abusing that power the way Mr. Von Pinnon has done recently and in the past.

Mattern is the mayor of West Fargo.

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