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Fargo City Commissioners discuss more civil discourse after string of increasingly heated meetings

Code of Conduct introduced, but no action taken

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City Commissioner John Strand attends a commission meeting Monday, July 26, 2021, in Fargo City Hall. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — Fargo City Commissioners briefly discussed a code of conduct on Monday night, Aug. 9, for their dealings with each other and city staff after tempers boiled over in their previous meeting.

No final action was taken, but Commissioner John Strand said he thought there should be a "reset" and that the commissioners had kind of "fallen off the rails."

"I think we need to show respect and honor each other and despite our differences show that we can still work together," he said.

The issue arose after commissioners Tony Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn had some heated exchanges at the last meeting with Piepkorn apparently flipping off Gehrig and accusing him of drinking before the meeting.

Commissioner Arlette Preston told Mayor Tim Mahoney she thought he should use his gavel more. If a meeting gets too heated, she said, he should call for a recess or adjourn until the next day.

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Mahoney said he thought a recess would be a good idea.

Preston also thought the city should look at some of the conduct rules the city of Grand Forks uses in meetings.

A 10-point Code of Conduct was included in the city's agenda, but no action was taken and the rules were not directly discussed.

Those 10 suggestions were:

  • Members will represent the interests of the citizens of the entire city of Fargo.
  • Commission member who is a liaison to a department is responsible to work with the department head on budgets and issues in their department.
  • Commissioners should show respect to the department liaison commissioner when asking for information or ideas in the different departments.
  • If there is a disagreement between a commissioner and a department liaison commissioner, they can appeal to the mayor to resolve the issue. If the disagreement is with the mayor, the deputy mayor would resolve the issue.
  • Commissioners will maintain confidentiality appropriate to sensitive issues and information they are appraised of such as in executive sessions.
  • Members are encouraged not to express individual negative comments about city staff or employees in a public meeting. They would be expected to discuss such issues with the city administrator to try to resolve such issues prior to any public discussion.
  • Dialogue at City Commission meetings should be respectful and courteous with attempts to discuss the idea and its merits. Once a vote is taken, the commission should try to move on.
  • Although commissioners can have individual disagreements with the commission's decision, we shall try to act as a team. It's important to have a positive attitude.
  • If there is a conflict of interest on a vote of the commission, the commissioner is expected to announce that conflict and not vote on the issue. If there is a question of conflict, the commission can request a ruling from the other commissioners.
  • When interacting with the North Dakota Legislature, a commissioner must make it clear whether they are representing the city of Fargo or for a personal purpose.
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