Laws Were Broken To Benefit the Alerus’s Managment Company
Ever since February 26th when the Alerus’s 2008 losses became public I’ve been questioning why the Venueworks mismanagement company that’s running the Alerus got paid their management fee. They had signed a contract saying that Venuworks wouldn’t get paid their management fee if they lost money. (Salaries of Venuworks employees here in town would still be reimbursed.)
Well they lost a LOT of money in 2008 and still they got paid contrary to the contract. How can that be?
After spending the last six months asking it’s finally come out thanks to questions that City Councilman Terry Bjerke kept asking. The Alerus Commission held a secret meeting and decided to waive that requirement to benefit Venuworks at the expense of the Grand Forks public and keep that agreement in secret. (At least until the end of March.)
The Neil Diamond concert happened in Nov. 22, 2008. Yet, no documentation seems to exist of any decision to exempt concert losses until March 25 of this year. Kreun said the exemption had been discussed and decided before the Neil Diamond concert, but he’s not sure in what setting. He does know that the exemption policy was finalized March 25, he said.
When asked if instead of being at a full commission meeting, the decision was made in the Executive Committee, which is made up of a small number of commission members, Kreun said he couldn’t recall.
Despite its name, that committee was, until recently, seen by the commission as an informal group that wasn’t subject to open meeting laws. Formal government committees have long been required to announce meeting times, locations and agendas in advance.
This is illegal folks. State law and Attorney General opinions are very clear. A body can’t go into executive sessions except for doing it for specific reasons laid out in the Century Code. They must follow a specific procedure. THEY MUST TAPE RECORD (or video tape the proceedings).
If a full committee delegates any powers to a smaller group then that meeting constitutes a quorum and must be subject to the open meetings law. If this executive committee made a decision then they must have been delegated powers.
The Alerus Commission is now saying that a few of them got together and informally decided that the contract was void. They apparently made representations of the same to their buddies at Venuworks with no legal authority whatsoever.
They claimed that they didn’t have to live by the rules of the contract, even though the contract had never been modified. That contract is/was a matter of public record. The public had every expectation to expect the Alerus Commission to abide by it.
Now, caught red-handed, the Alerus Commission wants to benefit their buddies at Venuworks by going back and retroactively rewriting the contract. I think the question that needs to be asked is does the Alerus Commission represent the people of Grand Forks, or do they represent Venuworks?
Yesterday I wrote about how the Alerus Commission sprung the news that they had signed a 5 year contract with Venuworks in August on the public with nobody knowing that such a contract was in the works. That also seemed to be a clear cut violation of the open meeting laws. Reading today’s Herald article makes us think that the Alerus Commission made that contract in secret because it also has the provision to exclude concert losses from counting as a loss when it came to their management fee.
I guess you want to keep your dealings to benefit your buddies as much out of the public eye as possible.
There’s one other thing that is odd in this story. The Herald story is claiming that the losses from concerts was $499,000. That’s strange because when the financial reports were released last February the Herald reported that number to be $719,000. The Alerus Commission ran a full page ad in the Herald where they claimed that the concert losses were $631,000.
At the time they claimed that they lost that money on the Neil Diamond Concert and two other concerts. Now they did say that they lost $250,000 on the Diamond concert but never accounted for the rest.
So where did the rest of the money go? Was it $249,000 or was it $470,000 or something in between? Did the money to support the Obama/Clinton campaign event? Did it go to payoff a disputed matter concerning the Fleetwood Mac concert? In either case it was inappropriate to sneak that through the event fund.
It’s our money. We have every right to get an exact accounting of that.
I expect that the North Dakota Attorney General will be asked to look into the matter of the secret illegal meetings next week.