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BRAINERD CITY COUNCIL Opinion delayed two more weeks on airport commissioner’s possible conflict of interest

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news Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

It will be two more weeks until Brainerd’s attorney offers his opinion regarding a potential conflict of issue regarding a Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission member.

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Brainerd City Council President Mary Koep informed the council that she received a request from council member Bob Olson to postpone the city attorney’s report of conflict of interest until May 16 because he was out of state Monday. City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick, in a memo to Koep, agreed to wait until May 16. 

At issue is whether there was a conflict of interest for airport Commissioner Doug Kuepers, whose company, Kuepers Inc., architects and builders, was hired to be the on-site manager of the airport remodeling project by Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc., whom the airport commission hired as a consulting engineer for the project. 

“I would have rather heard it tonight but that’s OK,” said council member Kevin Goedker, who also is the council’s liaison to the airport commission. 

Goedker said the airport commission would be discussing the issue at its meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday. 

City Administrator Dan Vogt said he had heard from some people that the only reason for the delay in Fitzpatrick’s opinion was because Olson had requested it. He said he hoped the council would afford any member that courtesy.

“I just can’t believe people think that way,” Vogt said in regard to the comments he heard, which he added didn’t come from anybody at Monday’s council meeting. 

Koep said as long as she was council president that courtesy would be extended and “no questions asked.” 

Council member Bonnie Cumberland said she was asked whether Fitzpatrick had been in contact with Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan regarding the conflict of interest issue because the airport is jointly owned by the city and county. Fitzpatrick said had limited discussion with Ryan after he was asked to look into the possible conflict of interest. 

Also on Monday’s agenda were letters sent by Olson to Minnesota FAA Division; Ray LaHood, U.S. secretary of Transportation;  Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn.; Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd; regarding an anonymous letter Olson received regarding possible airport safety concerns. 

Koep said Olson’s letters were for information only and the council had no discussion on them. 

During the public forum portion of Monday’s agenda, resident Bill Dian, who serves on the Charter Commission, said he would hope the council would never make decisions based on unsigned letters. 

He said he’s been a member of boards his whole life and such action never happened. 

“I think that’s terrible,” Dian said. 

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at matt.erickson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5857. 

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