Stark County Fair Board members reveal conflicts of interest; Proposed fairground location approvedDiscussion at a Stark County Fair Board meeting got heated Wednesday at the Stark County North Dakota State University Extension Service Office in Dickinson as members addressed a conflict of interest for land proposals for fairgrounds, leaving members pointing fingers at each other and forcing each to reveal their interests.
Discussion at a Stark County Fair Board meeting got heated Wednesday at the Stark County North Dakota State University Extension Service Office in Dickinson as members addressed a conflict of interest for land proposals for fairgrounds, leaving members pointing fingers at each other and forcing each to reveal their interests.
“What you need to realize is none of this is personal, everyone,” attorney Sandra Kuntz said. “This needs to have been the disclosure that happened months before you got here. Unfortunately it didn’t.”
The conflict of interest stemmed from board member Lee Ann Karsky, who owns land on which Five Diamond Fund Managers LLC of Draper, Utah, proposed to build the fairgrounds. FDFM offered to develop the land at no cost to the board or taxpayers, according to the bid. The board voted 5-to-1 to accept the proposal over a bid from Dickinson Energy Park and DKN Development in Dickinson.
The land is about four miles west of the city on approximately 60 acres. FDFM plans to complete the project Oct. 30, 2013.
A motion was made during another board meeting May 9 by board member Jeff Schiff to remove Karsky from the board, stating she did not disclose the conflict of interest to the board. Schiff rescinded his motion Wednesday, but the board split a vote declaring she had an interest in the land, leaving Chairman Bernie Marsh to cast a vote in favor of the motion.
A conflict of interest occurs when anyone has a financial stake in a motion, Kuntz said. Anyone must abstain from voting if they have such an interest, according to the board bylaws.
Karsky said she stated twice at previous meetings that she had an interest of the land and intended to abstain from the vote between the two bids. Schiff and board member Kevin Stockert said at the May 9 meeting that they did not know about it, according to the minutes.
Board members accused each other of having a conflict of interest at Wednesday’s meeting. In order to avoid any further misunderstanding, Kuntz asked all members to state any conflict because Dickinson is a small town and everyone has connections.
“That’s part of being on a public board,” she said. “That’s the reason we have to go through this process, so that we get rid of this finger-pointing personal feeling going around in the room and get down to business.”
All members except board members Pete Kuntz and Shelly Fleck stated they could have a stake in the fairgrounds bid.
“This is getting ridiculous,” Schiff said.
It’s time to vote on the proposals and get the fairgrounds going, said Annette Steffan, a resident of Belfield and former 4-H club leader.
“Go forward, do the best for the sum of the whole and get this fairgrounds completed already,” she said. “It’s been too long.”
Board member Frank Klein agreed, saying every time they get close to starting the fairgrounds someone throws a wrench in the plans. The board has spent $1,200 on advertisement for the bids they got, and the board has done everything it can to find the best bid possible, which is FDFM, he said.
“We have to make the best decision for the citizens involved,” he said. “Now we got to go back to the citizens of Stark County and say, ‘Well, as your fair board, we turned down a complete free fairgrounds you could have had. They are going to say what the heck are you people doing on the fair board?’”