Letter: West Fargo needs more 'sunshine'
Lana Rakow writes, "The light that exposed West Fargo’s troubles in the past few weeks has raised more questions than it answered."
While The Forum was running stories recently about the importance of sunshine laws to shed light on government, West Fargo residents were in the dark.
Not that there weren’t signs of trouble before the flashbulb captured the sudden departure of the city administrator, but residents of West Fargo had to guess (“ West Fargo City Administrator Tina Fisk resigns ,” March 15). We usually have to read between the lines of City Commission meetings and speculate with neighbors. With this burst of light, what have we learned so far and what don’t we know?
We recently learned that three out of five city commissioners agreed to a behind-the-scenes showdown with the city administrator to force her out. This looks to be a decision made in the equivalent of a secret meeting. There are protocols to follow when a public body handles personnel matters. Perhaps the Commission needs a refresher.
We recently learned there has been no evaluation of the city administrator since 2015 and none of the staff since 2018. It’s hardly surprising to also find out about the ongoing personnel mess that resulted. Taking it upon herself to fire staff freely and regularly, hardly the makings of a team esprit de corps, the city administrator spent a tidy sum on a Dale Carnegie training program to boost staff morale. A fair evaluation process would have been cheaper. We don’t know why the City Commission didn’t know or care about the mysterious turnover of so many staff in so many departments over so many years. Along with other correctives, surely the Human Resource Department needs a makeover.
We recently learned that the city administrator fired three staff in the past two months in accounting, billing, and payroll, after rapid and messy turnover twice in the finance director position. Meanwhile, the city administrator also serves as auditor. We don’t know if there is any reason to be concerned about the public’s money, but these events and circumstances deserve an outside financial investigation.
We recently learned that a city commissioner finessed a deal with the West Fargo Public School District business manager to develop a prime piece of real estate, skirting the Planning and Zoning Commission and the priorities set recently by the Planning and Zoning and City Commissions. We don’t know the process used to arrive at the arrangement. We don’t know how West Fargo and the West Fargo Public School District is going to manage its growth, but no one should be surprised if the public finally says “enough.”
The light that exposed West Fargo’s troubles in the past few weeks has raised more questions than it answered. This should be a wake-up call. We need city government (elected and staff) to know that light is shining on what it does. We need city staff and departments cleaned up and at full strength. We need residents to show up and speak up. We need news media coverage appropriate to the city’s size of over 38,000.
The residents of West Fargo deserve better than this. To begin, let the sunshine in.
Lana Rakow lives in West Fargo. She is serving an appointment on the West Fargo Planning and Zoning Commission until April 1. She also serves on The Forum’s Readers Board. These opinions are hers and not those of any other organization.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.