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Published November 02, 2012, 07:06 PM

$9 Dispute Leads to Resignation of Michigan, ND Officials

The mayor, a city council member and the city auditor of Michigan, N.D., verbally resigned Friday over a disputed water bill and a resident’s unmet demands to examine the city’s financial records.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

The mayor, a city council member and the city auditor of Michigan, N.D., verbally resigned Friday over a disputed water bill and a resident’s unmet demands to examine the city’s financial records.

Mayor Bernie Linstad, City Council member Kathy Gilbertson and City Auditor Rita Hjelseth made the announcements at what another council member called an informal, unofficial meeting.

“There was nothing in writing,” Council member Rodney Fisk said Friday. “I think it’s a heat-of-the-moment type of a thing. I’m trying to get them back to the council.”

The Michigan City Council’s next regular meeting is Monday.

Local resident Valerie Larson said Friday that the issue erupted she when demanded to see the city’s financial records.

It started simmering this past spring, she said, after the city mistakenly overcharged residents on their monthly water bills.

City officials later said the error had been corrected and that customers had been credited for the overcharges.

But Larson continued to pursue the issue, asking to see the city’s financial records on several occasions, she said. Instead, she was referred to the city’s attorney, she said.

“They pretty well shot me down,” she said. “They’ve been hostile to me from the get-go.”

So, armed with the North Dakota Century Code, Larson presented the council with a long list of questions she wanted answered.

The mayor and three of the city’s four council members attended a portion of Friday’s meeting, she said, before the mayor and one council member left the office, one after the other.

That left just two council members at the meeting, which had not been advertised as required by law.

Fisk said no action could have been taken, because less than a quorum remained.

Neither Linstad nor Gilbertson were immediately available for comment Friday. A woman who answered the telephone at the mayor’s place of employment said he was gone all day. Calls to his home went unanswered.

“They’ve been butting heads for a while over this,” Fisk said, “and it all started over an $8 or $9 water bill. I’m thinking after people calm down maybe it’ll get resolved.”

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