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Who really sits on the Gunderson trust board?

Uncertainty following falsification of city commissions roster prevents reorganization of board

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 5/9/19

TOWER—A potential dispute over the proper makeup of the Gunderson Trust Board delayed the reorganization of the trust board during its first meeting in two years, held this past Monday. …

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Who really sits on the Gunderson trust board?

Uncertainty following falsification of city commissions roster prevents reorganization of board

Posted

TOWER—A potential dispute over the proper makeup of the Gunderson Trust Board delayed the reorganization of the trust board during its first meeting in two years, held this past Monday.

Reorganization was among the items on the agenda, but Mayor Orlyn Kringstad argued for delaying that action until the city council could properly determine who should sit on the board and in what capacity.

Under the trust board’s founding documents, members are to be appointed by the city council to three-year terms. Two members are designated as council representatives, two as representatives of the forestry board, and three are designated as “at-large.”

Both Lance Dougherty and Josh Carlson had served as the council representatives, whose terms on the trust board expired at the end of 2018.

At Monday’s meeting, Kringstad said he believed Carlson’s term had expired. “Josh, I’m sorry but you were council rep through 2018 and then somehow was moved to resident and I haven’t found that in any minutes,” he said.

But City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith responded, noting that the city council had voted on an updated slate of trust board members during their reorganization in January, a slate that included Carlson.

“Yes, but I wasn’t aware of the alterations in the roster at the time that we had that meeting, so we need to go back and redo that,” responded Kringstad.

The alterations to the trust board were part of a series of changes to the city’s roster of commission and committee terms, apparently made by Keith, that appeared designed to keep her political allies in key positions, while limiting the ability of the new city council to replace members whose terms had expired.

In the case of the Gunderson Trust Board, it appears Keith not only altered the terms of members, by removing term dates entirely, but changed the structure of the board to include three “residents” (a designation that is not part of the trust’s founding documents), one at-large member, one forestry board member, one council member, and a combined forestry board-council position. It appears those changes were made by Keith unilaterally, without authorization of the council or of the court that oversees the trust.

By making the alterations, it appears Keith changed Carlson’s designation on the trust board from his previous council representative position, which expired with his leaving office, to one of Keith’s newly-invented “resident” positions. In addition, by reducing the number of council representatives from the two required in the founding documents, to just one, it reduced the number of available appointments for the new council from the usual two, to just one.

Kringstad had expressed concern about the trust board’s member roster when Keith presented it to the council back in January, with Kringstad noting that it appeared inconsistent with his review of minutes from previous reorganizations. Gunderson trust board vice-chair Sheldon Majerle made note of the changes in January as well, arguing that the roster presented by Keith was inconsistent with the approved structure of the trust board.

When council member Kevin Fitton motioned to approve the roster anyway, and was seconded by Brooke Anderson, Kringstad and the rest of the city council let the matter drop, at least temporarily.

But Kringstad signaled Monday that the issue would be addressed soon by the city council, which means the makeup and designation of trust board members is likely to change. The length of terms is another issue likely to be clarified. The trust’s founding documents and minutes from previous city council reorganizations indicate the trust board members are appointed to three-year terms. But when asked Monday about the term length for members of the board, Keith said she did not know. As part of the alterations that Keith apparently made, the expiration dates of the terms of the trust board members were removed. Those dates had always appeared in previous committee term rosters.

In other business on Monday, the trust board:

 Approved a change recommended by the city’s attorney and auditor to drop a requirement that the trust retain a percentage of its annual proceeds equal to the official Consumer Price Index, or CPI, in order to not lose ground to inflation. But because the trust is primarily invested in certificates of deposit yielding less than one-percent interest, its annual proceeds have fallen short of the CPI figure in most years, technically leaving the trust in violation of its court-ordered responsibilities.

 Was unable to approve minutes from the board’s last meeting, held in 2017, since Keith said she only had one printed copy available, preventing members from reviewing them. No one on the board inquired about the copy machine in the adjoining room, and Keith never offered to make copies.

 Transferred $2,707 in unreserved proceeds from the trust to the Wagner Trails Club for use on the city ski trails. Club president Mary Shedd said that would be just enough to purchase a new trail grooming device which the club needs to maintain the ski trails.

 Discussed recommendations by the city’s auditor before approving the audit. The report recommends development of a budget, an investment policy, and a conflict of interest policy. The board said they’ll discuss recommendations at their next meeting, which they set for Wednesday, June 26.

 Heard from Majerle that he’d like to have a list of the trust’s investments for consideration at the next meeting.

 Heard from Keith who told the board that she does not have the ability to unilaterally transfer or expend funds from the Gunderson Trust. She suggested that stories to the contrary have circulated in the community.

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