VALLEY CITY, N.D. (AP) â€” The former longtime Valley City police chief who retired after a months-long dispute with a city administrator who has since left town now plans to take on the mayor, who a group of residents wants forced from office.
Former chief Dean Ross's decision to run for mayor in the Jan. 24 recall election is the latest development in the political turmoil that has plagued the North Dakota city of 6,600 people all year. Ross said he has been encouraged by people to run for the mayor's seat held by Bob Werkhoven, so he is circulating petitions to get his name on the ballot.
"I'm not going to sit here and say that the situation I went through didn't have something, some effect, on my decision to run for mayor. Obviously it did," he said.
Said Werkhoven: "So be it."
Ross was suspended Sept. 9 amid allegations he mishandled public money, an accusation he disputed. The city dropped its allegations when he stepped down later that month, ending a 38-year career with the Police Department, the last 11 years of which he served as chief. Ross also had quarreled for months with City Administrator Jon Cameron over a reprimand for allegedly not following an order from a superior.
Cameron announced in October that he was resigning, a day after residents had voted in a special election to maintain his position. He is taking the city manager job in Perry, Okla. On Nov. 11, his last day on the job in Valley City, he issued a news release critical of Ross, who still is being investigated by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Ross said he is not out for revenge but wants to change the city he loves and people's perceptions of him. He said he is worried that the months of turmoil might hurt his chances.
"I hope that the negative press doesn't follow this," he said. "I do not want a negative situation for this city. I just want a clean campaign."
The recall election for Werkhoven and City Commissioner Ken Evenson was scheduled after residents who want new leadership submitted petitions with enough signatures to force the public vote.
Werkhoven called the recall election "a disadvantage for those of us who are in office," but said he has supporters.
"The public recognized what was going on, and I think there's a lot of feeling out there that we did the right thing," he said.