Sunday, June 26, 2016


It is interesting to me as a newcomer to Carrington (only 12 years as a resident, 14 years as a property owner), it seems  the local newspaper (the official newspaper for Foster County) never gets it right when it comes to reporting county business.  In this article, the Foster County Independent will henceforth be referred to as the "Dependent."

Since I have arrived, the local weakly newspaper (The Foster County "Dependent") has two constant  themes to their stories and editorials about city and county government.  The first theme is their unqualified support to each and every new tax proposal.  The second is their inability to accurately report what happens at the county commission meetings.

The best example of their inability to report what took place is at the last commissioners meeting (June 21, 2016) about the mandatory districting (not "re-districting") to five commissioner districts as required by North Dakota Century Code.  The code states:

"11-12-04. Increase in number of commissioners authorized - New districts formed. When the returns of an election to pass on the question of increasing the number of county commissioners in a county show that a majority of the votes cast on the question favored such increase, the board of county commissioners, within ten days after the votes have been canvassed, shall divide the county into five commissioners' districts. Such districts shall be numbered from one to five."

In the "Dependent's" (June 27, 2016) front page article about the meeting, they quote sections of the North Dakota Century Code (11-17-01 that are applicable to re-districting current districts due to the census that takes place every ten years. This section DOES NOT APPLY to the creation of a district... hence the word "re-district."  You wouldn't use the term "re-invent the wheel" if no wheel existed.

Where did the reporter covering the meeting get the inapplicable code section quoted in the Dependent?  It was not quoted at the meeting.

Once again the Murphys have written the story for the "Dependent."  This is evidenced by the ad placed by commissioner candidate, John Murphy, in which he quotes the inapplicable code sections. Also, the "Dependent" published Paul Murphy's Letter naming the current commission as evil, gerrymandering and power-hungry  - along with the wrong drawing of the commission's plan for the new districts.  Yet, the "Dependent" did not publish the Commissions' submission to the newspaper of statistical analysis of the situation, based on census and population data, explaining why they divided the county as they did; nor did Stock publish the correct drawing of their map.  

Why did the "Dependent" choose to publish Paul Murphy's inaccurate, lambasting personal letter to the editor instead of publishing the Foster County Commission's submission of an accurate map and statistical reasons for diving the county as they proposed to do?

Also, if the Foster County "Dependent"" were a real newspaper, they would ask candidate John Murphy if there was a citizen complaint against him for openly violating the corrupt practice election codes.  The evidence of this is contained in the ads Murphy ran in the "Dependent" where he failed to disclose the person paying for the ad as required by North Dakota Century Code Section 16.1-10-04.1. This section requires:

"Every political advertisement by newspaper, pamphlet or folder, display card, sign, poster, or billboard, website, or by any other similar public means, on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office, designed to assist, injure, or defeat the candidate by reflecting upon the candidate's personal character or political action, or by a measure committee as described
in section 16.1-08.1-01, or a corporation making an independent expenditure either for or against a measure, must disclose on the advertisement the name of the person, as defined in section 16.1-08.1-01, or political party paying for the advertisement."

Candidate Murphy violated this section on at least three occasions in the Foster County "Dependent."  These violations were brought to the attention of the reporter that covers Foster County, and yet there has never been a mention of it in the "Dependent."

A real newspaper would want to investigate corrupt practices by any candidate -- seemingly not the "Dependent," however.   Why would the "Dependent" want to investigate the Murphys when they spend so much money with the newspaper?

A better question is why would a candidate for state's attorney, Paul Murphy, run numerous ads in the Foster County "Dependent" when he is running completely unopposed?  When you run unopposed, you only need one vote to win.  He wants to have the Foster County "Dependent" to stay dependent.  There is a serious question that Paul Murphy has not violated the corrupt practices act, himself.    For what other reason would he purchase these unnessary ads, if not to sway favorable articles and editorial content in the Foster County "Dependent" toward himself and his father?

Take a look at this section of the North Dakota Century code, and interpret it for yourself: "16.1-10-05. Paying owner, editor, publisher, or agent of newspaper to advocate or oppose candidate editorially prohibited.  No person may pay or give anything of value to the owner, editor, publisher, or agent of any newspaper or other periodical, or radio or television station, to induce the person to advocate editorially or to oppose any candidate for nomination or election, and no such owner, editor, publisher, or agent may accept such inducement."

Admittedly, the Foster County "Dependent" is a great source for finding out who won local awards or the scores of area sports. You can't beat Erik Gjovik's coverage of our local sports events and the impressive action photos that go along with his stories. 

However, before you believe anything from the "Dependent" regarding the Foster County Commissioners meetings and/or local political issues, remember who is paying for the story and the opinion.

The Amazing Disappearing and Reappearing and Disappearing of Foster County State's Attorney Paul Murphy

Remember State's Attorney Paul Murphy? He's back! Oh wait. He's not back!
This story started back last winter. State's Attorney Paul Murphy was confronted by Commission Chairman Josh Dreher regarding the county having to pay a $15,000 settlement out of county funds. This was in regard to a bid-rigging law suit pertaining to the county shop where Murphy encouraged the commission to break the law.
After that meeting, Paul Murphy resigned. Directly after he resigned, Murphy issued a press release about how he was forced to resign by Commissioners Dreher and Gussiaas.
Murphy gave interviews that were published in Jamestown Sun, Fargo Forum and NewsDakota. He appeared on numerous newscasts on area TV stations. His reasons for resigning immediately without notice was that the commission meetings had turned into a zoo and were almost to the point of violence.
After that, Commission Chairman Dreher was interviewed by the TV stations about Murphy's accusations that the meetings were out of control and ran like a zoo. Dreher said that the main complaint by him and Gussiaas was that Murphy showed up late to the commission meeting, couldn't give a direct answer to any legal questions and seldom, if ever, got back with a legal opinion. As well, when Murphy came to the meeting, he spent his time playing on his phone and not paying attention to the meeting. When Murphy was asked if it were true that he played on his phone, he replied that the meetings were so boring that it was like watching paint dry.
The fact that Paul Murphy resigned without notice or making the slightest effort to find a replacement is an act that few taxpayers should forgive. To make matters worse, Murphy went about soiling the position by calling every single news source to tell the world that the position of State's Attorney of Foster County is worthless. Imagine an employee (and he was the taxpayers' employee) who gets insulted and quits without notice or a possibly finding a replacement, and then goes about the process of bad-mouthing his former employer to every potential replacement employee just to make it harder on his employer.

Paul Murphy bad-mouthed the citizens and taxpayers (his boss) to every possible news media that would listen to him. Murphy purposely soiled almost every potential state's attorney Foster County could use to replace him.
After several months of being unemployed, Murphy looked to get his old government job back as the State's Attorney of Foster County. He placed his name in nomination for Foster County, and being the only person on the ballot, he now has the nomination.
The commissioners' task of finding a replacement was made even more difficult by Murphy's letters to the editor causing Ashley Lies to resign.
Since then, the commission has offered the position of state's attorney to any qualified attorney. Guess what -- the only applicant was Paul Murphy.
On the June 21, 2016, commissioner's meeting, after failing (thanks to Paul Murphy) to find any replacement for state's attorney other than Murphy, commissioners Gussiaas and Copenhaver voted to offer the position of state's attorney to Murphy. Dreher voted no.
After this vote, the commission unanimously voted to continue the previously approved budget (minus months he was not serving) for the state's attorney's office.
Shortly thereafter, Auditor Casey Cables contacted Paul Murphy about coming to her office to take his oath of office again. It has been reported that Murphy told Cables that he will not take the position unless he gets more money. Apparently, by that act he turned the County's offer down.
Murphy continually talks about how he wants to serve the county, but given the opportunity to have the previously agreed upon budget, he throws the County to the curb.
Is this the kind of public servant that you want?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Paul Murphy as State's Attorney? Not Again, Please!

Mike Larson was concerned about the encroachment of farm crops into the road ditches in the county. Encroachment is damaging to the drainage capabilities for which the ditches were designed by engineers to protect the roads. He wants the Commission to give landowners notice of their encroachment and collect money for any damage that they may have caused. He wants the commission to enforce the Century Code laws regarding this issue.
Mike Sherman had questions about the gas piping and heating units that may or may not be needed in the new shop. He wants the commission to determine exactly what is needed for the project so he knows what to do. He had good ideas for saving money on the project. He wondered when everyone would get paid for the work they had already done.
Sheriff Mattice gave his stats for the month of May. They had 182 calls. One deputy resigned and they will be looking for a replacement.
Jess Earle, Emergency Manager, gave her monthly report and discussed the safety aspects of the Courthouse. They're synchronizing emergency radios throughout the county. There will be a full-scale planning activity in the Armory on June 10th.
Russ Heidt discussed his meeting with the architect and contractors about fixing the Courthouse dome for around $250,000. Chairman Dreher said they don't have money at this point to address such a huge project. They agreed that Russ will patch the dome and slow down the deterioration until the county can pay for a complete renovation.
Bids were opened regarding a County road project and the bid was awarded to Knife River for $1,496,458 which was over $100,000 less than the nearest bid.
Auditor Casey Cables discussed the subject of raising salaries for county employees. She gave comparisons of Foster County salaries to other similar counties. Employees say that their salaries/benefits are low compared to other counties. Cables said that the opening for County Auditor is due by June 10th and interviews will be on June 16th.
Ted Keller appeared to discuss the qualifications of the State's Attorney position. He enumerated many facts/reasons that Ex-State's Attorney Paul Murphy is not a good choice for the position. For instance: 1) Murphy advised the commission to break the law regarding the shop building, that their insurance would pay for any problem. 2) He cost the county $15,000 that should be paid back to the county. 3) He was asked questions many times for legal advice but seldom ever got back to the commissioners with answers. 4) He did not show due diligence regarding his job and the legal research needed to give good legal advice to the commission. 5) When he resigned, he notified multiple media sources, ridiculed the county, and verbally attacked personal lives of certain commissioners. 6) Murphy used his position to threaten Keller who published a story that the state's attorney didn't like. He warned that the law could be his enemy or his friend.
Keller feels that someone so irresponsible should be kept from serving as State's Attorney.
Chairman Dreher said that the Attorney General is sending someone to cover any court cases if the commission can't come with a decision on appointing a State's Attorney. Commissioner Copenhaver said why delay appointing Murphy if he will most likely be elected to the position if he is the only one running. Chairman Dreher said that he disliked the way Murphy ran away from the last meeting while they were trying to discuss concerns of the commission. Commissioner Gussiaas said that he wants what's best for the county, but that he will not nominate him, second a motion or work with him because Murphy can't seem to sit down and rationally discuss issues necessary for the welfare of the community. The meeting ended with the commission not appointing Murphy as State's Attorney.
The commission discussed that for procedural questions, they can contact the North Dakota Association of Counties, and for election questions, they can contact the Secretary of State's office. Court cases will be handled by someone sent by the ND Attorney General until someone is appointed or elected as Foster County State's Attorney.
Note: At the coming June 14th Primary Election, the Foster County community has a chance to vote on a measure which will give the commission permission to "appoint" a State's Attorney for the county - instead of having it be an "elected" office as it is now. Other counties are doing the same thing because of the lack of qualified attorneys who are willing to run for the office of State's Attorney. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


After receiving a complaint from more than one citizen about the Special Meeting of May 26, 2016, not being properly noticed, Commissioner Josh Dreher called a Special Meeting on May 31, 2016, to address the notice issues.
All three commissioners attended, as well as the newly appointed State's Attorney Paul Murphy.
The meeting was called to order, and the chairman pointed out that the meeting of the 26th, which appointed Paul Murphy to his old position, was illegally noticed. The notice of the topic to be discussed was the open position of State's Attorney. There was not a notice that the meeting would "appoint" a State's Attorney. According to the ND Century code, all special meetings have to stay within the topics disclosed in the notice.
Chairman Dreher explained to the other two board members that the remedy would be to rescind (annul) the vote of May 26th. After some discussion and Commissioner Copenhaver's state of reluctance to correct the record, State's Attorney Ashley Lies was consulted by phone as to her opinion regarding the notice.
SA Lies stated that her review concluded that she agreed with Chairman Dreher that the notice was illegal. The solution for such an improper notice would be to rescind the vote and revote on it again. A motion was made which passed unanimously to do so.
A revote occurred with the result of the appointment of Murphy failing this time, because Commissioner Roger Gussiaas changed his vote to NO. He stated that he would like to have more choices and that he had had numerous phone calls in opposition to Murphy's appointment. Whereupon, Murphy inquired as to the names of the people who were in opposition to him.
Gussiaas objected to disclosing any names publicly and said that he would have them call Murphy personally if they chose to do so.
Murphy insisted and said that anything that the commissioners discussed regarding the county outside of the meeting is considered to be a public record.
At that point, Chairman Dreher pointed out that a telephone conversation and a personal chat with a citizen is not a record unless it is recorded or there is a written transcription of the conversation. He wanted to know why Murphy was insisting on knowing the names of the citizens.
Gussiaas restated that if people wanted Murphy to know what they said they could call Murphy personally. Gussiaas did not feel comfortable giving out the names of people who had discussed issues in a private conversation, and he refused to go along with Murphy's command to do so.
So, as it stands now, Ashley Lies is the only State's Attorney, and Paul Murphy is not. The matter will be taken up again at the next regular commission meeting on June 7, 2016.

Paul Murphy Was Unlawfully Appointed as Foster County State's Attorney

Note:  This article should have been posted on May 30, 2016, the day before the Foster County Commissioners Special Meeting on May 31st.  The results of the May 31, 2016 will be posted later.

SPECIAL REPORT :  Did you know that the Foster County Commissioners will meet at 9:00 a.m. in a special meeting at the courthouse on Tuesday, May 31, 2016?  We received a copy of the notice of a special meeting by the commissioners to discuss and decide whether or not the special meeting of May 26, 2016, was illegal.

The meeting of that date noticed discussion of the resignation of Attorney Ashley and possible alternatives, specifically
"Discussion of the State’s Attorney Vacancy"
"Opening of State’s Attorney Position"

Thanks to Commissioner Copenhaver, assisted by former State's Attorney Paul Murphy, the commission was specifically instructed that by law, they were required to appoint Paul Murphy as State's Attorney.

Once again, the commission was instructed that something was legal or illegal  without quoting any statutory authority - notwithstanding the fact that no commission can be instructed by any State's Attorney to vote yes or no or not vote at all.

Apparently, thanks to misinformation, and their desire to have a States Attorney appointed and to have one resign, the commissioners voted on and appointed a State's Attorney (Paul Murphy) without noticing the public that it was their intention to do so.  Therein lies the problem.

The defendants openly violated North Dakota Century Code section 44-04-20(6.) which states:

6. In the event of emergency or special meetings of a governing body, the person calling such a meeting shall, in addition to the notices in subsection 4, also notify the public entity's official newspaper, if any, and any representatives of the news media which have requested to be so notified of such special or emergency meetings, of the time, place, date, and topics to be considered at the same time as such governing body's members are notified. If the public entity does not have an official newspaper, then it must notify the official newspaper of the county where its principal office or mailing address is located. TOPICS THAT MAY BE CONSIDERED AT AN EMERGENCY OR SPECIAL MEETING ARE LIMITED TO THOSE INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE.
[emphases added]

It is our understanding that one citizen was so incensed by this apparent shortcut, that he is intending to file  a complaint about this issue, if the commissioners do not rescind (annul) their vote and give proper notice before voting on the next State's Attorney. His objection will be heard at the next Special Meeting of the Foster County Commission on Tuesday, May 31, 2016.