No Wrong Doing On Part Of This Week's Shopping News!

The City of Fergus Falls dismisses case against This Week’s Shopping News and Friends For A Progressive Fergus Falls.

There was no basis for this action and the city never had anything more than assumptions to base their claim. 

Their allegations were proven false and in my opinion this was nothing more than an attempt to discredit this publication, Laurie Mullen of the Friends For A Progressive Fergus Falls, and the  4 candidates that ran for city council. 

In an email sent to city council members by Assistant City Attorney, Joe Ellig, he stated that this situation could have been avoided had we provided information previously requested by Lynne Olson. 

As the publisher of This Week’s Shopping News I am stating that Election Administrator Judge, Lynne Olson did not communicate with me by phone, email or letter requesting any information. So either Joe Ellig is lying about this or Lynne Olson is lying that she requested this information. I stated in an article over a month ago on December 23, 2014 quite vociferously that we charged the candidates the same advertising rate and that we did not donate or discount any advertising to any candidate.

Specifically, that we did not donate anything to the Friends For A Progressive Fergus Falls, Laurie Mullen. I stated in that article that if Lynne Olson, Mark Sievert or Ralph Nycklemoe would have done 5 minutes of due diligence prior to filing this complaint, like pick up the phone and call me, I would have gladly answered any concerns she may have had.

They did not do this and now claim we withheld information and they desperately wanted to find out the truth. Instead they continued to collude with the Daily Journal who blindly kept rehashing old articles. 

In my opinion, if the Daily Journal receives information from the city why don’t they do what a good responsible newspaper should do? Ask what are the motives for receiving this information and then report a complete story with both sides of the story. Not once in the last 2 months has anybody from the Daily Journal called me, the owner and publisher, to ask any questions. Instead it appears they were content to collude with City Hall and try and smear the 4 candidates prior to the election.

They never thought it was suspicious why the City Administrator, Mark Sievert, made derogatory statements about 4 candidates days prior to the city election. They didn’t think it was unethical for the Election Administrator, also making a statement about these same 4 candidates, potentially breaking campaign law and that she might possibly not be able to certify their election should they win. Why couldn’t she certify a win? How much time did they have to file their disclosure forms? A good reporter would have asked those questions and realized that no reporting violations existed at that time. Instead they ran a headline that the four candidates were hypocritical.

The Election Administrator, Lynne Olson, made these statements to the Daily Journal and they were published prior to the election. She also stated that if money spent on behalf of a candidate and if the reports were not filed, that she could not declare them the winner. REALLY! So a group could place ads in support of a candidate and not file the reports, thus it disqualifies the candidate from winning even though they have nothing to do with the advertising. Ingenious way to keep candidates from winning elections. 

I am still waiting for Election Administrator, Lynne Olson, to publically apologize to the 4 candidates, Darren Appert, Justin Arneson, Ted Steenbock and Rod Spidahl. They were not involved in the advertising. They did not break any campaign laws and were not involved in this incident. They are good, upstanding citizens who ran for city council to help make a positive difference in city government. They all wish to listen to their constituents and be Open, Transparent and Honest in doing the work for the city. 

Lynne and Mark, now is the time to acknowledge that you made a mistake and apologize. At the same time acknowledge that The Midweek Inc. had done nothing wrong and had no involvement in this issue. Joe Ellig, shame on you for stating that it still seems suspicious and that this could have been avoided if we were upfront about our election activities. I did not even speak to Ms. Mullen or any of the candidates prior to the election and I did not have any election activities. 

Mr. Ellig, now that you investigated advertising rates here at The Midweek and found every candidate paid the same rate, you should look into the Daily Journal’s campaign advertising practices. How was one candidate able to buy a full page, four-color advertisement and according to his disclosure form only paid $895 for total advertising? According to the Journal’s rate card he should have paid a minimum of $12 per column inch and a minimum of $75 for color. 129 column inches at $12 is $1548 plus $75 for color for a total of $1623. (based on the Daily Journal’s October 1, 2014 rate card)

His discloser for $895 indicates he got almost a half price advertising deal compared to what the other candidates paid. So now request an accounting for all city council candidates that advertised in the Daily Journal to compare whether they paid the same rates. In talking to the candidates, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Lynne Olson, and her boss, Fergus Falls City Administrator Mark Sievert stated their displeasure over the content of the advertising. I guess it “Really Chaps Sieverts hide” that the four candidates kept hearing from their wards that “what is missing in Fergus Falls city politics” is the lack of “Openness, Transparency and Honesty.” Those 4 candidates were only responding to the residents in their respective wards. 

I find it rather Unethical that the Election Administrator would take a position for or against any candidate prior to an election. Lynne Olson acting as the Election Administrator should be impartial and after this incident should never be considered to be involved in any future elections. 

It is my opinion that Mark Sievert was trying to influence this city council election and through his position more than likely influenced his employee to pursue this issue. If Lynne’s actions as an Election Administrator broke the conduct code of her position and proves illegal then she should be removed. If it is not illegal then it certainly seems unethical with the same result. If City Administrator, Mark Sievert, tried to influence Olson’s actions then that is another situation that needs to be looked into and addressed.

Openness, Transparency and Honesty certainly sound like a good thing to bring to this city and I don’t think anybody can argue against that.

Richard Anderson

The Midweek Publications