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Co-op members ready to fight: Killdeer farmers, ranchers bring up concerns to board they plan to remove

Press Photo by Katherine Lymn Killdeer Cenex Farmers Union board President Doug Dukart responds to member concerns at a special meeting for the co-op Thursday at Killdeer Public School.

KILLDEER - Killdeer Cenex Farmers Union Co-op members battled with the board of directors and its attorney Thursday at a meeting in response to member concerns over the store’s new focus on oilfield business.

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Co-op members weren’t playing around.

The meeting at Killdeer Public School started with a presentation on the store’s financials — which showed increased revenues thanks to oil — and upgrades made in recent months, but members quickly shut down that agenda item with a motion that had almost unanimous consent.

“We don’t want to hear about this tonight,” member Gerald Bang said. “We want to hear about this at the annual meeting.”

Community members met in February to discuss their concerns over the changing products and services offered by the business. At least 70 members have signed a petition to remove the board.

The removal of Rick Reems from the board was a common topic, with members questioning if the board pushed him out on purpose, but board President Doug Dukart maintained that Reems could not stay on the board after refusing to sign a new code of ethics.

Dick Olson, a lawyer representing the board, will review the legality of Reems’ removal after the members made a unanimous motion to have him do that, and the board passed along the directive.

Multiple members brought up changes to the store over the past year, namely a shift from a farmer-rancher focus to oilfield services, leaving the store’s original patrons with fewer options and less attentive service.

The store’s service level has declined since a few seasoned employees left and were apparently replaced by employees with little knowledge of animal health and agriculture, members said.

“It would be foolish not to take advantage of the oilfield,” member Gene Harris said, but added the business needs to use its increasing revenue better.

Employees used to know all the members.

“Today, they look at you like you’re just another oilfield person,” member Taylor Bang said.

Member Joe Reems illustrated the changed product offerings with a list of what you can find in the shop, like 36 types of hard hats, fire-retardant clothing and five different types of slow cooker.

“Why is this in Farmers Union?” he asked.

Rick Reems said before he was removed he tried to bring up the patrons’ concerns to the board but that the board wouldn’t make changes with the management.

Speaking on Rick Reems leaving the board, Dukart said, “We are all good persons, all good people, but we are all wired differently,” some better employees, some better managers and so on.

After a motion was made to remove the whole board, Olson quickly squashed it as invalid, because according to the bylaws, board members are to be given 10 days’ notice with a list of charges before removal.

Member Wylie Bice said after the meeting that the members will send the formal charges to each board member. Another special meeting will be held shortly after, where board members will have a chance to respond.

“We’re just gonna have to lawyer up,” Bice said, summing up the two-hour meeting as “a lot of talk and nothing gets done.”