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Council passes ‘no confidence’ vote in Rugby mayor

By Staff | Jan 13, 2020

* This article was originally added to the “Tabulated Data” section of the P.I.L.O.T. program story. It has since been separated due to technical difficulties.

A handful of Rugby City Council members cast a vote of “no confidence” in Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke Monday evening during the council’s regular meeting.

Council members Joel Berg, Frank LaRocque, Dave Bednarz, Chuck Longie and Bruce Allen Rheault all voted in favor of the no confidence vote. Council members Jackie Albrecht and Cody Melgaard both voted no. Ward 2 Councilman Gary Kraft voted “present.”

Berg explained that a “No Confidence” vote is when members of a group “are asked to indicate they do not support the person” in authority.

Berg, who brought the motion to the council, explained the no confidence vote stemmed from actions taken by Steinke without the full council’s knowledge, including sending a letter to the Convention & Visitors Bureau announcing cessation of funding due to legislative changes; self-appointment to chair of the city’s Planning & Zoning Board; and Steinke and city officials being parties in a citizen lawsuit.

Longie seconded the motion.

“We’re talking about being transparent and we just don’t know what the hell’s going on behind the scenes,” Longie said.

Berg questioned why the mayor or city attorney did not notify council members about the lawsuit. City Attorney Bill Hartl said lawsuit circumstances should not be discussed outside of an executive session.

Berg questioned the CVB’s lack of funding for four months, disputing whether changes to the N.D. Century Code affected CVB funding. Hartl said the intent was not to withhold funds, but that there was “concern” that current ordinances did not allow for the city to disburse lodging tax monies to the CVB. Hartl also said ordinances have been drafted but are not ready for approval.

Bednarz expressed his disappointment.

“I have no confidence in sitting at this table right now because of what I think the way things have been run,” said Bednarz, adding that council members should be involved in decisions that affect taxpayers.

Kraft questioned what the council’s liability is in the lawsuit. Hartl said individual members are not liable, but the Planning & Zoning board is a named party.

Albrecht said the ordinance committee worked for a year on liquor ordinances with the help of business owners, and the CVB ordinances “has not been forgotten.”

Berg asked whether council members would get to vote on the no confidence motion.

After the vote, Steinke expressed ire.

“A vote like this has no purpose other than to cause controversy, humiliation-” Steinke said.

“It puts it on the record that we were not aware of what was going on and had no part of it,” Berg interrupted.

“Ok, so noted. But a motion like this is still to cause controversy and humiliation in hopes that I might resign.”

“That is not what it’s about. It’s about doing things the right way.”

“Working with the council is what it’s about,” Bednarz added.

“The council is the governing board,” said Berg. “You and the attorney are not the governing board.”

“I appreciate your input,” Steinke said. “We will wait for the lawsuit to work its way through all the other issues.”

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