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Port: Minot council moves to terminate five-year contract with embattled city manager just months after approving it

Minot City Manager Tom Barry
Minot City Manager Tom Barry (Photo via City of Minot)
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MINOT, N.D. -- Earlier today, the CEO of my company, Bill Marcil, Jr., published a thank you to subscribers around North Dakota (and across the region our company serves) for supporting our work.

Our work in local and regional journalism.

Part of our job is "to give a voice to the voiceless," Marcil wrote.

Over the last several months, city employees in Minot have been telling me about problems they have with Tom Barry who was, until today, their city manager.

I wrote a series of posts based on these conversations, and that culminated in Mr. Barry marching several city department heads into what has been described to me as a police interrogation room and threatening to fire them for speaking critically of him to me.

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They were even asked to sign a document, under threat of termination, indicating whether they had spoken to me.

I reported on those interrogations , including documentation of Barry's "talking points" as well as the forms employees were asked to fill out, and that prompted the city of Minot to launch an investigation into the hostile work environment Mr. Barry created at the city.

As a result of that report, which you can read in full below, the City Council voted unanimously today to terminate Barry.

City staff has been directed to review the early termination provisions in the lavish, five-year contract the council approved just months ago.

None of this would have happened if certain city employees hadn't had the courage to seek me out. And, in some instances, to continue speaking to me even as their boss threatened and bullied them.

Even as some members of the City Council derided the reports I was writing.

These employees were "terrified, belittled, and bullied," as council member Stephen Podrygula put it during today's meeting, but they kept talking.

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They gave me the opportunity to give them a voice, and I was happy to do it, because what Mr. Barry did to them reflected poorly on himself and the city of Minot.

As my boss wrote, that's my job.

There are still problems at the city. During the discussion before the decision to terminate Barry, Podrygula and other council members expressed concern that information and decision-making opportunities were kept from them by the city's executive council, which includes Mayor Shaun Sipma and Councilwoman Lisa Olson, both outspoken allies of Barry's before today.

That glaring concern is in need of further scrutiny.

But for now, a wrong in Minot has been righted. Local journalism has proven its value once again.

If you'd like to support our journalism, which has an impact across North Dakota and the region, click here and subscribe if you haven't already.

Report Final by Rob Port on Scribd

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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