Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary's Latest Plan Must Be Watched Mayor Mike Seminary announced at the June 28th, 2016 city commission meeting that he and c

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Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary's Latest Plan Must Be Watched

Mayor Mike Seminary announced at the June 28th, 2016 city commission meeting that he and city staff intend to aggressively "set the record straight" when it come to critics of the agenda and policies the city commission puts in place. Citizens must watch this effort to ensure it does not cross the like from "fact-checking" to "propaganda". This is clearly a reaction to the North Dakota Watchdog Networks' work over the last year and a half.

June 29th, 2016

Seminary Screenshot

In yet another public display of hubris, Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary announced in his own way his plans to use city staff and resources to "set the record straight" when individuals and groups (such as myself and the North Dakota Watchdog Network) use various media to question and spotlight the actions of the city commission.

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In what is clearly a reaction to the work the North Dakota Watchdog Network has been doing (see below), this announcement should be shocking to all taxpayers in Bismarck. How the mayor implements this plan should also be watched (as we will do) to ensure it does not make the leap from "setting the record straight" to "propaganda". There is a line, and it involves using city resources to defend the political decision of the elected officials.

To use public funds to justify the actions of political officials as a means of defending them would likely be a violation of state Corrupt Practices.

This will especially be the case if the city commission authorizes the use of PAID media to make the political arguments that city commissioners deem as "facts".

Luckily for Mayor Seminary, he will not have to wait long to set the record straight, and the taxpayers in Bismarck should demand that he and other commissioners explain themselves for the following decisions made last fall.

Business Paid Off To Make FiveSouth Happen

In the local news yesterday, there was a big story about the FiveSouth Project in Bismarck.

This is a project that has been in the works for over two years as open records obtained in the Spring of 2015 showed.

It was approved in October 2015 with a $35 million subsidy from the City of Bismarck using Tax Increment Financing.

These are funds diverted from their intended purposes into a slush fund that the city can use to subsidize projects it likes.

Over the last weekend, an issue was brought to my attention about a situation regarding a tenant in the city owned strip mall next to the Event Center.

In April, a story ran locally about a hair salon closing due to the FiveSouth development plans. There were rumors that the city had paid the salon to leave, but at the time those rumors were unsubstantiated.

Until this last weekend when a source sent me photos of the secret agreement between the City of Bismarck and Identity Salon for the city to pay $55,000 to Identity Salon to leave their lease early.

Identity Salon Agreement with City

At the September 8th, 2015 Bismarck City Commission meeting, the commission approved a 5-year lease extension for Identity Salon - while negotiations were happening to make the FiveSouth Project happen in the same location.

Just over 6-weeks later, the City Commission approved the FiveSouth Project, which would require the strip mall that the salon is in to be torn down.

At the same October 27th, 2015 meeting where FiveSouth was approved this agreement with Identity Salon was approved but not disclosed to the public.

The city had been in discussions behind the scene for well over a year on this project as documents show - so why would the city approve this 5-year lease extension just to turn around a six-weeks later and way $55,000 to break the lease agreement?

This was bad management, and another sign that mixing city business with private development is a bad mixture.

An open records request to the city was placed on Monday June 27th, 2016 to find out how the city paid for this. Was it out of TIF funds? Was it part of the $35 million package, also out of TIF funds? Did the FiveSouth investors reimburse the city for making this happen, as they should?

No response from the city has been received as of noon Wednesday, June 29th 2016.

If Mayor Mike Seminary's desire to use public resources to "set the record straight" is going to do more than provide cover for the poor decisions made with taxpayer dollars, now is his chance to prove it.

Otherwise, the public will be left to wonder whether the FiveSouth Project will just be one continuous money pit for the taxpayers.


Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

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