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WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 09, 2013, 11:29 AM

Griggs County voters oust five county commissioners; recall prompted by $3.5 million building project

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. - While they can’t do anything about the courthouse that’s being constructed at an estimated cost of $3.5 million, voters in Griggs County cast their votes in a recall election Tuesday that unseated all five county commissioners who approved the project.

By: Justin Glawe, Forum News Service, INFORUM, Forum News Service

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. - While they can’t do anything about the courthouse that’s being constructed at an estimated cost of $3.5 million, voters in Griggs County cast their votes in a recall election Tuesday that unseated all five county commissioners who approved the project.

Results are unofficial until canvassing can take place Monday, according to the Griggs County Auditor’s Office. In all, 1,023 votes, including at least 693 absentee ballots, were tallied Tuesday night.

The results of the election are as follows:

- District 1: Incumbent, Ron Halvorson, 92; challenger, John Wakefield, 132.

- District 2: Incumbent, Ronnie Edland, 90; challenger, Shawn Steffen, 150.

- District 3: Incumbent, Dennis Halvorson, 60; challenger, Ron Dahl, 144.

- District 4: Incumbent, Keith Monson, 71; challenger Troy Olson, 103.

- District 5: Incumbent, Robert Johnson, 69; challenger Dale Pederson, 112.

The recall was prompted by commissioners’ decision this year to build the combined courthouse and emergency operations center despite voters rejecting it in three ballot measures.

Several men and women were reluctant to talk about their votes outside Cooperstown City Hall, just a few blocks from the building that will replace the historic courthouse in the Griggs County seat.

But Mary Halstead, who declined to say whether she voted for the incumbent or challenger in her district, said whether it’s the new courthouse, or new county commissioners, many in the area are resistant to change.

“People are set in their ways,” she said. “I don’t mind a little fresh blood, but I do think there needs to be continuity among the commission.”

Halstead said the process around the new building, from the proposal of the project onward, was marred by a lack of information or misinterpretations.

“I think many people have taken information and twisted it,” she said.

In August, an opinion by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem agreed that there had been a lack communication. That month, Stenehjem found the county commission violated the open meetings and records act by failing to provide public notice of a Feb. 12 “community forum” on the project.

A group of county residents submitted petitions for a recall in June.

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