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No decision yet on whether Sadek lawsuit will be dismissed

Judge Jay Schmitz is expected to decide whether or not a jury trial affecting Richland County, North Dakota, will occur.

Tammy and John Sadek’s wrongful death, fraud and deceit lawsuit against Richland County and Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber is scheduled to be heard beginning July 15, 2019.

Defense attorneys asked Tuesday, April 23 that the case be dismissed. They did so by bringing a motion for summary judgement in Richland County District Court, Wahpeton. Oral arguments lasted for over an hour according to Timothy O’Keefe, Fargo, the Sadeks’ attorney.

“The judge took everything under advisement and will give his recommendation in the future,” O’Keefe said. “He gave no timeline.”

O’Keefe expects Schmitz’s decision will come within the next few weeks.

Tatum O’Brien, Fargo, also represents the Sadeks. Attorneys Corey Quinton and Tyler Carlson, Fargo, represent Richland County and Weber. Quinton was unavailable for comment.

A summary judgement is a decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented in legal pleadings and documents filed, US Legal stated. They are made without a trial.

Prior to his May 2014 disappearance in Wahpeton, Andrew Sadek was a first-year student at North Dakota State College of Science’s Wahpeton campus. He subsequently worked as an undercover drug informant following being detained for selling $80 worth of marijuana on campus.

In their complaint, the Sadeks stated that Richland County failed to properly train and reasonably supervise their son for his work as a confidential informant.

In July 2014, Andrew Sadek was found dead in the Red River. Following his death, his parents worked to craft what’s known as “Andrew’s Law,” providing increased standards for use of confidential informants. It was signed into law following the 65th North Dakota Legislative Assembly.

“Parents still need to talk to their kids about their rights,” Tammy Sadek said in August 2017.

The Sadeks were present in Wahpeton as court spectators, O’Keefe added.

Should the trial proceed, Schmitz will preside at the Stutsman County Courthouse in Jamestown, North Dakota. The lawsuit was initially set to be heard beginning April 20, 2018 in Jamestown.

“Attorneys for both sides said it would be difficult to find impartial jurors in Richland County,” Daily News Media previously reported.

Public works shakeup proposed by Wahpeton mayor

Wahpeton’s leaders are examining the public works department’s operations.

Mayor Steve Dale introduced a proposal which would reorganize city employees. Several public works positions would be affected by the reorganization, which was discussed but not acted upon during a Monday, April 22 city council retreat.

“I don’t want to lose anybody,” Mayor Dale said. “There are places that (employees) can shift. It might not be the same pay, but it will match better what they are doing now.”

Dale’s proposal includes eliminating the city public works director position and creating a city engineer position. The city engineer would handle several of the public works director’s current duties. Additionally, a public works operations manager position would be created. Dennis Miranowski is currently Wahpeton’s public works director.

Miranowski was not present to hear the proposal, which was given during a roundtable of Dale, council members, City Attorney Steve Lies and Assistant City Attorney Brittany Hatting. Daily News Media was also present.

The public works operations manager position has been proposed more than once, Dale continued. Miranowski is aware of the position, according to Dale, and has shown some interest in exploring it.

“In the last two years, I’ve come to realize that our public works director has probably slipped into this position, public works operations manager,” the mayor said.

Dale also endorsed the idea of creating a public works operations manager assistant position. It would be valuable, he said, to know exactly how much time or money is spent on a project.

“That person would be responsible for some of this data collection that we’re missing,” Dale continued.

Efficiency has been frequently discussed during Mayor Dale’s time in office. At times, he said, the council is too responsive to whomever complains the loudest, particularly if they are part of a group.

Reorganization, Dale added, has been on his mind for a while. It would continue a streamlining trend which has included eliminating Wahpeton’s community center board, economic development commission and city enhancement organization.

“The CEO, that’s another committee that probably has value in coming back some day with new faces and new blood. But what it was (at elimination) was a train wreck,” Dale said.

With Wahpeton’s budget-preparation season approaching, Dale requested a unified front.

“I feel it’s important moving forward that the ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ mentality that I feel I run into in other departments in the city is among us with (the proposal),” he continued.

While Dale discussed a chart reorganizing employees, it was not presented to council members. Councilman Don Bajumpaa, 4th Ward, said he was writing down the information but requested to see the actual chart.

“These things are important and valuable in knowing what your vision is,” Bajumpaa continued. “One of the positives in your laying this out and sharing with the group is that at least we know where you’re coming from.”

Bajumpaa did question the idea of unanimous support.

“We don’t always have to be united, but we do have to respect whatever decisions that we make as we move forward with the best interests of the public. We’ve opened the door, had discussion and this deserves additional time,” he added.

Dale acknowledged that implementing the proposal during the 2019 budget season might be premature. At the same time, he said he was recognizing deficiencies and seeing waste all the time.

The current salaries of Miranowski and Engineering Project Manager Kyle Rogahn were one example. Both men, according to Dale, make about $53,000 more than previous employees did.

“I look back and, as far as I’m concerned, we’re paying more and getting less at this time in those positions,” the mayor said.

The proposal is expected to be discussed in future city meetings.

Councilman-at-large Kelly McNary was absent from the retreat.

The next city council meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, May 6 at City Hall, 1900 Fourth St. N. in Wahpeton.

Find out plans for the BREC April 29

Organizers with the proposed Breckenridge Event and Recreation Centre, BREC, are holding a public input and informational meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 29 at Breckenridge High School’s auditorium. The intent of the facility is to bring together health, education and community.

The planned recreation and event center for Breckenridge, Minnesota, has been in the works for about five years. The idea started after parents got together and talked about creating additional activities space for their children due to the limited practice spaces and busy schedules of the school’s activities calendar. The first idea was to put up a quonset, but as more people heard about the idea, it grew.

The proposed facility is two stories and encompasses 33,500-square-feet of flexible space that could be used for athletics, meetings, arts, events and more.

Scott Nicholson, who is part of the non-profit BREC board, explained the meeting is a way to share updates with the public about the project, how it came to be designed the way it is, the research that went into it, and to answer questions.

“We want to explain all the research we’ve done and the decisions we make which are based on the fact that there are limited resources out there,” Nicholson said. “We need to be conscious of cost and try to make as many synergies and economies of scale as we can.”

He noted that commodity prices have affected the farming industry and the group is sympathetic to that.

“The respective municipal budgets and district budgets don’t allow for exorbitant spending, so we’re trying to fit it all in at as low a cost as possible,” he continued.

The city and school district have both donated land for the site, which will be located between the high school and the Family Aquatic Center. It will not be attached to the school, but in close proximity for convenience.

Organizers have identified as many as 60 different activities taking place or that could take place in the community if only space were available, so want to make the facility as flexible as possible. The building would offer space for year-round activities, events and meetings, and would have a catering kitchen. The space could be used for industry conventions and conferences, as well.

“We’re still early enough in the planning where we can be flexible and change things around and make adjustments,” Nicholson said. “I’d like to see an indoor playground. That idea has been kicked around.

“We feel we’re at a stage where we’ve done enough research in terms of an operational budget, a location study that’s been done thanks in part to our lead donor, who wanted reassurance that our location is best – and a study confirmed that – immediately south of the high school. It speaks to the collaboration that’s happening on the is project.”

He explained the location would create a hub of activity. Parking lots at the school and the aquatic center could be used on weekends, and the location is easy to walk and bike to.

The school district will give up some land, the city is giving up land and a street, and will move utilities.

“That lowers our land and infrastructure cost,” Nicholson added. “If we went somewhere else, we’d have to buy the ground, there’s no infrastructure in those locations, we’d have to pay to put in a roadway, sewer, water, power. that all adds another million dollars to the project costs.”

For more information, visit the BREC Facebook page or call 701-361-2760.

North Dakota lawmakers approve boost in treasurer's salary

BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers agreed to give state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt an 8 percent raise after protracted House debate over whether the bump was fair Tuesday, April 23.

The agency budget bill provides the raise effective July 1, matching Schmidt’s salary with the state auditor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner. Schmidt is currently the lowest-paid statewide elected official with an annual salary of $99,881.

The Senate had agreed to the raise earlier in the session, but the House voted to give her pay bumps of 2 percent and 2.5 percent in the next two-year budget cycle. That would match what state employees are receiving.

But a House-Senate conference committee agreed to give the larger pay increase this year, followed by a 2.5 percent raise in the second year of the budget cycle, with some House lawmakers arguing that Schmidt has earned it and that the Legislature had previously promised a bump.

A 2011 legislative report showed the treasurer’s pay matched that of the auditor, insurance commissioner, tax commissioner and others at the turn of the century but has since fallen behind. Schmidt is a Republican first elected in 2004, and Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature.

Bismarck Republican Rep. Mike Nathe, who last session proposed eliminating the office, said he would have a “hard time walking down the halls and looking at our state employees” if they gave Schmidt a higher raise.

“All of our state officials knew what the salary package was when they ran for their offices,” said Rep. Tracy Boe, D-Mylo.

The House ultimately approved the bill in a 66-25 vote hours after the Senate gave its blessing. The legislation is now on its way to Gov. Doug Burgum.

Schmidt’s office is the smallest agency headed by an elected official in North Dakota with just seven full-time equivalent positions and a two-year budget of more than $1.7 million. She is a member of several state panels, including the Land Board, which manages the state’s trust land assets.

Lawmakers have said this session’s news that millions of dollars in oil tax money had been misallocated didn’t factor into their decision-making about Schmidt’s raise. Schmidt, whose office is responsible for distributing state funds, has maintained she was following legal advice on the allocations.

“(The office) handles literally billions of dollars of state money ... and it’s been handled very well,” said Rep. Vernon Laning, R-Bismarck.