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Piepkorn, Gehrig feud reaches new level with middle finger during Fargo City Commission meeting

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn apparently showed his middle finger to fellow commissioner Tony Gehrig during an exchange.

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Fargo City Commissioner David Piepkorn appears to give Commissioner Tony Gehrig the middle finger during a meeting Monday, July 26. Image from city of Fargo broadcast

FARGO — Fargo City Commissioners Dave Piepkorn and Tony Gehrig often disagree with each other at meetings, but their feuding reached a new level at the last meeting of the city's top five elected officials.

Video of Monday's City Commission meeting shows Piepkorn apparently giving Gehrig the middle finger during a heated discussion about a property tax break for Tecton Products, an expanding Fiberglass company.

In a later interview with The Forum, Piepkorn denied giving the middle finger to Gehrig. Gehrig told The Forum he never saw it.

In the conversation leading up to the offensive gesture, Gehrig said the city's property tax breaks for businesses were a "runaway train," causing Piepkorn to sneer.

Gehrig told Piepkorn he could "giggle as much as he wants to" but added that the city has never "clawed back" a tax break after a company fell short of its promises to use the taxpayer savings to create more jobs, increase wages or invest in their properties.

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Gehrig then asked Piepkorn to "defend that."

Piepkorn responded by saying he didn't need Gehrig's "permission to speak" and that he would offer a solution later in the meeting, which turned out to be a motion to require yearly reports on whether the company seeking a tax break is meeting agreed-upon job and wage levels. Piepkorn's motion passed.

As discussion continued, Piepkorn is seen in the meeting video flipping off Gehrig.

But that wasn't the end of the confrontation.

Later in the meeting, after Gehrig briefly interrupted a speaker, Piepkorn asked Gehrig if he had been drinking.

"I want an answer," Piepkorn went on.

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Gehrig never answered, and Mayor Tim Mahoney quickly asked that the speaker continue his report.

When asked about Piepkorn's accusation, Gehrig told The Forum, "I won't comment on such a childish accusation."

The mayor and two other commissioners who round out the City Commission didn't offer new information on the latest exchanges.

"No comment," said Commissioner Arlette Preston.

The mayor said, "I don't know anything about it," although he said Gehrig did seem a bit "aggressive" at the meeting.

Commissioner John Strand said he thought some of the exchanges between the two men lacked "decorum and class."

He said it's "unfortunate" that such exchanges take place when commissioners are supposed to be "role models" for the community. "I don't know if there's anything that can be done about it. It's certainly not taking the high road," Strand said.

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Strand said the flipping of the bird and the drinking accusation are "documented in recordings that will live on forever."

He said he appreciates the "casual and candid" discussions during the meetings, but added "we need to keep our filters on."

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