Mediator: 3 of 4 Grievances Filed by City Officials Have Merit; Werkhoven Responds

Heidi Harris
News Editor

Patricia R. Monson, the mediator who looked into the grievances filed against former mayor Bob Werkhoven, found that three of the four aggrieved parties' grievances have merit and one does not.

The final report of investigation was released to Valley City City Commission vice president Matt Pedersen. The Times-Record received a copy of the report Tuesday afternoon.

The investigation was done by Monson of the Center for Mediation and Consultation in Fargo and examines the grievances filed by Valley City Attorney Russ Myhre, Valley City Administrator David Schelkoph, Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson and Valley City Police Lt. David Swenson against Werkhoven.

They all accused Werkhoven of allegedly creating a hostile work environment for various reasons.

Werkhoven resigned as mayor on May 12, citing health issues. He told the Times-Record that the grievances and contention did not affect his decision to resign.

During the four-month investigation, Monson interviewed the four aggrieved individuals and Werkhoven as well as Valley City resident Mike Metcalf, city commissioners Mary Lee Nielson, Matt Pedersen, Madeline Luke and Dewey Magnuson and several city employees.

Monson found that Schelkoph's, Myhre's and Thompson's grievances against Werkhoven have merit, while Swenson's does not.

Monson said, "It is not possible to determine, on the basis of Lt. Swenson's assertions alone, whether Mayor Werkhoven had any involvement in the matters Swenson alleges have impacted his life and employment. More direct evidence would be needed."

Swenson alleged that the mayor had been trying to "get rid of him" and that he purposely did not attend his swearing in when he became lieutenant. Werkhoven maintained that he had a prior commitment out of town when that meeting took place.

"In short, the Mayor's conduct has caused disruption within City Hall and brought unnecessary and undesirable attention to, and created potential liability for, the City. The information received from individuals interviewed establishes this conduct to be long-standing and despite warnings to correct the behavior, the Mayor has not done so," Monson's report reads.

Here is Werkhoven's response that he delivered to the Times-Record Thursday morning:

"The contents of the report by Pat Monson was certainly not unexpected since it was generated by a few people considered by some to be politically of a different faith than the former mayor, and with an ax to grind. Considering who grieved, it shouldn't have bothered me; however, it did to the tune of about $18,000+-.

Ben Thomas, attorney 1, gave an opinion initially that the grievances did not qualify as grievances.

Commissioners Nielson, Peterson and Magnuson, commissioners who actively campaigned against me in previous elections, decided to hire a mediator, Pat Monson, attorney 2, to do the same thing. (Mediator???) I believe her investigation was bias(ed), prejudicial and right next to incompetent. I don't know if she randomly picked people to interview or just drafted those with complaints to make comments. Four or five of the women who work in City Hall were not, as I understand it, interviewed. If it were those with complaints, the percentage would be small. I received the report on the NewsDakota web.

Statements were made by some people with no timelines or any other substantiation as to when and where things that supposedly happened actually happened. Months or years ago, who knows.

Many times statements are attributed to the mayor or other city officials to give the statement more credibility which simply were not made. I've been associated with the commission for about 14 years and this is the first time this has happened.

I will admit I was hostile and orally voiced my displeasure (not email) when I found out the administrator and one commissioner investigated a sexual harassment charge without letting the rest of the commissioners know, did not follow procedures in the investigation nor their own job description, and no documentation on file.

Likewise, conducting meetings with two commissioners without letting the rest of the commissioners know. Administrator and city attorney were present. This may have, and probably did, violate open meeting rules.

Didn't find out about the gun incident for six days. Not until the victim called after getting nowhere with commissioner holding the PD portfolio or the administrate who is accountable to the commission. There may have even been instances of solicitation, and violation of terms of an employment contract.

I'm not perfect and I publicly apologized months ago if I offended anybody in the public or private sector. This issue appears to have taken on political overtones, right? And so it goes."