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Dome director underbid employer

In a bid that was withdrawn before it could be heard, Fargodome director Paul Johnson offered to manage the facility for $36,000 a year less than his employer's company.

In a bid that was withdrawn before it could be heard, Fargodome director Paul Johnson offered to manage the facility for $36,000 a year less than his employer's company.

Johnson -- an employee of the current national management company Aramark Entertainment -- proposed to run the Fargodome for about $90,000 per year in total management fees.

Johnson submitted his bid to the Fargo Dome Authority under the business name Vision Management Inc., but later withdrew it because of pressure from his employer.

The contents of the proposal were kept under wraps until Tuesday, when Johnson turned the document over to Fargo city commissioners, as requested last week.

Competing bidder SMG, a facility management company owned by Aramark, requested $126,000 a year in total management fees, according to its contract proposal.

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Johnson does not work for SMG, but works closely with them, especially for event booking, said SMG President Wes Westley.

Global Spectrum, the company selected by the Fargo Dome Authority to manage operations starting July 1, offered two alternatives in its proposal.

In total, Global Spectrum's management fees could range from $84,000 to $132,000, depending on the number of attendees at major Fargodome events.

Johnson created Vision Management in late 2002 "for the sole purpose of managing the Fargodome."

According to the 37-page proposal, Johnson has steadily increased use of the Fargodome every year since 1995, when he became executive director.

"With few exceptions, Paul has been personally responsible for booking major acts without the assistance of out-of-state corporate executives," the proposal states.

Among the concerts Johnson says he booked last year at the Fargodome are Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, Styx/ REO Speedwagon and Creed.

The proposal says Johnson recently booked the biggest concert event in Fargodome history -- Elton John and Billy Joel.

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Last week, Fargodome attorneys said Johnson's proposal is not public record because it's not in the hands of public officials.

According to an e-mail Johnson sent to SMG officials, the bid was pulled March 28 -- one business day before the deadline.

But Dome Authority President Russ Johnson told city commissioners April 28 he also had a copy of the proposal. Johnson said he picked up Paul Johnson's proposal before it was withdrawn.

Because Paul Johnson submitted the information Tuesday, The Forum withdrew its request to North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem regarding whether the proposal should be public.

Fargo city commissioners now will review all three proposals before making a decision May 12.

Since contents of Johnson's bid were reviewed and discussed between at least two members of the Fargo Dome Authority, City Commissioner John Cosgriff said it should be included in the decision-making process.

Still, Cosgriff said he has other concerns about the way the bid process was handled and questions whether it was done properly.

The Commission voted 4-1 last week against approving the dome's new 5½-year management contract.

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The Fargo Dome Authority will meet at 11:30 today to vote on a resolution in support of management company Global Spectrum.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531

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