WILMA TOWNSHIP BOARD OF SUPERVISORS SPECIAL MEETING WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2011
Chairman Glen Williamson called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance. The meeting had been called to discuss the contract with FEMA for the removal of trees and debris from the July 1st storm and the subcontract of the work by Wilma, and the conflict of interest issue that came up at the regular meeting last week. Also present were Supervisors Mike McCullen and Gary Vink, Clerk Paul Raymond, and Eldon and Marg Schmedeke, Mark Pallow, Shawn McCullen, Toni Williamson, Duane Glienke, Brendan McKeon and Danielle Greasley.
Glen stated that according to MN Stat. 471.81, any contract entered into between the Town Board and a Supervisor that did not follow the statutory conflict of interest procedures is considered void. Glen said that the vote last week was invalid and void because the board did not follow the procedures of the resolution and affidavit for conflict of interest.
Mike asked Paul to read the minutes from the September 7th Board Meeting regarding his meetings with FEMA. The minutes read: “Mike said he got a last minute call a few weeks ago about a FEMA meeting for compensation for the wind storm July 1. He registered the Duxbury Volunteer Fire Department and Wilma Township to be eligible for federal funds. Mike said there will be another meeting tomorrow, Sept. 8, in Pine City, and he will represent both the fire department and the town.” Mike said he did his best to keep the board informed and felt he was sent by the board to represent the town.
Mike read MN Stat. 365.37 which states that “A Supervisor may not be a party to or have a direct or indirect interest in a contract made or payment voted on by the Township Board. Violation is a misdemeanor and the Supervisor must leave office if convicted.” The exception is covered by MN Stat. 471.88, that this does not apply if the Board adopts a resolution stating the facts and that the price is lower than can get elsewhere, and an Affidavit is filed by the interested Supervisor stating his interest, his price, and that the price is lower than can get elsewhere. Mike said Arna is desperately trying to find contractors to do their cleanup, and that he could not find any other contractors who were willing to do the work. Glen asked Mike if he had asked Duane Glienke? Gary said that after the storm he asked Duane if he was available to help with the emergency cleanup to clear trees and debris off the roads, and that Duane said he was too busy. Duane confirmed this.
Brendan McKeon asked to speak. He is a legal consultant for the Republican Party and for Representative Chip Cravik. He said both Glen and Mike have very valid points. He said that last week’s vote could be validated if the resolution is passed and the affidavit is signed. Glen said that Mike was not specified to sign a contract for the Township when he was sent to PineCity. Mike said he always intended for Wilma Township to get the contract with FEMA and that the Township would do the work. Glen said that at the Sept. 22 meeting, Mike found out that FEMA would not pay the township for labor, so he put in a bid for his own company, Fudally Tackle, and he had 12 days to schedule a special Town Board meeting to get approval for this and to file the appropriate affidavits.
Paul asked if the Board had had the resolution and affidavit last week at the meeting, would the vote to award the contract to Fudally Tackle have been legal and appropriate? Glen said he would not take questions from the floor. Mike said he will ask the question, “Would that have made it legal?” Glen said Mike could have gotten quotes from other interested parties. Mike said there are no other contractors that he was aware of who were free to do the work, as witnessed by Arna’s desperation to find contractors. Mike said that with the time pressure, with winter coming and the possibility of snow, and with hunting season coming, he had to act quickly. Plus the FEMA representatives were in a hurry to get the contracts signed and to move on to other disasters. He said he has never called a special meeting, and asked Gary if he has ever heard of a special meeting being called in Wilma Township. Gary said no.
Eldon said that if there is any way that this can be fixed and made legally compliant, that he hopes and prays that Mike can be awarded the work. He said he has great respect for Mike and believes that he is an honest man and board member. He pleaded with the board not to fight and argue with each other but to work out a solution to get this work done right.
Mike asked for Gary’s input. Gary said “Let’s sign the papers and get it done with; it has already taken too much Board time.”
Duane said that he is interested in bidding. Mike asked him why he hasn’t bid on any of the work in Arna? Duane said he is not interested in working in Arna. Gary said he thought Duane wasn’t interested in Wilma’s work because Duane was too busy in July when Gary asked him to help. Mike asked how the Board could get a fair quote when his bid is public knowledge and has been published? Glen asked Duane if he knows what Mike’s quote was. Duane said he didn’t. Paul said Mark told him that he did tell Duane the total price of Mike’s bid. Glen said we can’t get a fair quote now that the figure is public knowledge. Mike said he bid within FEMA’s guidelines. Glen asked, “How can we make this right?”
Mike said any contract between $25,000 and $100,000 may be awarded by sealed bids or by negotiation, with two or more quotes when possible, but does not have to comply with competitive bidding laws. Mike said both FEMA Rep. Mike Fedoruk and Mike’s attorney believe his actions were legal. Mike presented a letter from his attorney, Kenneth J. Jacobs, stating that “Mike made full disclosure of his position on the Board and that it was his company that was serving as the private contractor, and FEMA approved this after this full disclosure. Once the Affidavit is filed and proof of liability insurance has been provided, you have a legally binding obligation to fulfill the FEMA contract as authorized by the Township Board at the Oct. 5 meeting. Any actions taken by you or financial investment in reliance on the Board’s approval of this contract would entitle you to damages if there is any act by the Wilma Township Board to interfere with this contract.”
Glen said that Mike Fedoruk told him that in his 15 years with FEMA that he has never had a case where a public official signed a FEMA contract that would profit him personally. Mike said that Fedoruk did know and did approve of his deal.
Toni asked how two Supervisors could be aware of this arrangement and the Clerk and the Treasurer, but that the Chairman not be informed? Mike said he only had the contract on September 28th, and the Board meeting was in a week, so he didn’t think a special Board meeting would make sense. Plus, having someone else try to explain to Glen all the details and complications could have been confusing and misleading, and he wanted to explain the reasons for his actions himself, and the only way he could do that was to wait until the meeting, so he asked Paul not to speak to Glen about it on Monday, Oct. 3 when he told Paul.
Glen asked Mike if he intends to hire township officers to help with the work. Mike said no, because he does not want to spend $1,800 for Workers’ Comp insurance. He will subcontract workers from the labor pool or jobs board, who will cover their Workers’ Comp.
Gary moved that the Board adopt a resolution stating that Mike is an interested officer, but that his bid was lower than could be obtained elsewhere, and that Mike be awarded the contract if he files the affidavit of his interest. Glen seconded. Passed.
Glen asked that Paul send a copy of the signed contract and a copy of Mike’s attorney’s letter, and a copy of the meeting minutes to the Township Attorney Robert Ruppe. Glen and Mike and Paul signed the contracts and Resolution and Affidavits for the files. Gary moved to adjourn the meeting. Glen seconded. Meeting adjourned at 9 p.m.