Port: Minot's former city manager harassed employees for years, but the taxpayers will still have to pay him

PHOTO: City of Minot Sign
Minot city sign. Photo by Rob Port

MINOT, N.D. — Yesterday, city leaders in Minot finally did something about a terrible situation with (now former) City Manager Tom Barry.

Per a devastating report from an independent investigator hired to review claims of a hostile work environment, Barry had been harassing city employees as far back as 2017.

Things were so bad, independent counsel Patricia Monson concluded Barry's efforts to silence city employees could have risen to the level of a misdemeanor crime.

The city council, which includes Mayor Shaun Sipma, acted appalled by this report's revelations and during a surreal and emotional meeting voted unanimously to begin the process of terminating Barry's contract immediately.

Councilmember Stephen Podrygula could be heard weeping during the meeting.


Barry may be gone, but there are still some hard questions to ask of Minot's leadership.

How was Barry was able to perpetrate a reign of fear and intimidation in a relatively small town's government without the knowledge of city leaders?

Also, how much is it going to cost taxpayers to make Barry go away, even despite what we know now about his conduct while working for the city?

Just months ago, in December, the city's elected officials rammed through a new contract for Barry. As I reported at the time , the public was given little notice about the proposed contract. It was a suspiciously late addition to the council's agenda.

It was also approved with little debate. I asked then , "shouldn’t we give his job performance some real scrutiny before the city is saddled with him for another half-decade?"

Given all we know now, we should have.

That contract is going to be a real problem.


The amendment to Barry's contract approved in December gives him a year's salary as "termination pay" (plus up to 540 hours of unused sick/vacation time) should the contract be ended prematurely.

Unfortunately, the memo presented to the city council explaining these amendments suggests that if Barry were ever terminated for cause the city wouldn't have to make good on this golden parachute: "Severance pay would not be granted if Mr. Barry terminates the agreement early or if the City terminated Mr. Barry’s employment for cause," it stated .

You would think that Barry's egregious behavior is just cause, no?

Not so fast.

The reality of the contract amendment the council approved is much different. The "for cause" exemption actually only kicks in "if the reason for such premature termination is the commission or attempted commission by Barry of an illegal act for his own personal financial gain at the expense of the City or Barry was convicted of a felonious act in the course of his employment."

Barry is still going to get paid.

"With the recent renewal of the City Manager’s contract, the City agreed to pay the City Manager a full year’s salary if he is terminated before the actual termination date of the agreement which is August 11, 2025," Monson wrote in her report . "The only escape from this Early Termination clause is if the City Manager is found to have engaged in self-dealing at the City’s expense, i.e. embezzlement or conviction of a felony, neither of which apply here."

You can read the full amendment, which I obtained from the City of Minot this morning, below.


What this means is that the taxpayers of Minot will have to pay Barry his $181,627 annual salary for the next twelve months, plus accrued leave time, even after it was revealed that he viciously harassed city employees for years during his employment.

The city may even have to pay more should Barry choose to commence litigation.

All this at a time when city revenues are going to be short thanks to what's going on in with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This isn't the first time North Dakota taxpayers got stuck paying for a luxurious exit for a bad hire. Former university system chancellor Hamid Shirvani continued to collect his $350,000 annual salary for years after he was terminated. His contract even obligated the taxpayers to give him raises as a part of his severance.

These provisions are, sadly, all too common in the contracts North Dakota officials give to high-level public workers.

The practice needs to stop.

If there is good reason to terminate one of these contracts, as there was in Barry's situation, the taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook to pay.


To comment on this article, visit

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

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What To Read Next
Get Local