Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Aug. 13, 2001

Wright board tangles over repair bill

By John Holler

The state has clear public meeting laws that require notice to be given if government officials are together and potentially talking government business.

But what happens when a government body attempts to make a decision that doesn't allow for a meeting first?

That question divided the Wright County Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 7 meeting.

The issue came to a head when Jim Stemper, who lives in a home he sold to the county but remains in for two more months, informed Board Chair Ken Jude that the well pump in the home had broken and no water was available.

That created a chain of events the divided the board and led to accusations from one commissioner.

Commissioner Dick Mattson, who has questioned Jude's role as board chair in the past, asked to have the process explained because he wasn't notified of any problem until after the repair was made and a $860 invoice was on its way to the county.

Jude said he had received a conference call from Stemper and Highway Engineer Wayne Fingalson in the evening and following the call contacted Commissioner Jack Russek about it. He told Stemper to get price estimates, but instead he got the pump repaired without board approval.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said that, since Stemper is living rent-free and the county paid three times the market value for his home (which is over a large gravel reserve), that he could afford to pay the $860 and had taken on liability when he circumvented board policy.

Mattson was against paying the bill because he never knew what was going on and believed that the process violates what commissioners have the authority to do on their own.

In the end, however, the other three commissioners voted in favor of paying the invoice and having the matter end there. The county will take control of the Stemper home Oct. 1.

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