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Griggs County considers attorney switch: New commission may vote today to end legal services agreement

GRAND FORKS -- The new Griggs County Commission might sever ties Tuesday with Assistant State’s Attorney Marina Spahr.

Commissioner John Wakefield, one of five new commissioners elected in a recall of all incumbent commissioners last month, said Monday a motion will be made that, if approved, would end the county’s joint powers agreement for legal services from Barnes County.

Spahr is a Barnes County assistant state’s attorney who has been filling the role as Griggs County state’s attorney for several years.

“We’re just looking at our options, and what’s best for Griggs County,” Wakefield said Monday. “We want to get to a vote and see what everybody thinks. I don’t know how it will turn out.”

The potential state’s attorney switch is a result of a bitter recall campaign this year that erupted when the previous Griggs County Commission formed a building authority and authorized the construction of a new $3.5 million courthouse and law enforcement center, despite voters rejecting bond issues three different times.

Spahr, in her role as state’s attorney, had been advising the previous County Commission on the project to build the new courthouse complex, which now is under construction.

In a meeting last week, Wakefield and new Commissioner Ron Dahl described the process of obtaining information from the county and from Spahr as contentious at times.

Spahr said at the meeting that her legal opinions are based on law, according to an article in the Griggs County Courier, and that the recall petitioners were welcome in her office throughout the process.

The Nelson County Commission approved a joint powers agreement late last week that would provide legal services to Griggs County, according to Nelson County Auditor W.J. “Jack” Davidson. Nelson County’s state’s attorney is Jayme Tenneson, who grew up on a Griggs County farm near Binford.

Griggs and Nelson counties already share some services, according to Davidson, including the county health nurse and some of duties of the county social service departments.

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.  

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