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TJ Jerke, Forum Communications, Published July 17 2012

Intimidation claim raises tensions in Mayville

GRAND FORKS – An intimidating phone call from an employee of the Mayport Farmer’s Co-op Elevator in Mayville to a planning and zoning committee member is raising the already heightened tension in this town of 1,900.

The co-op and many Mayville residents have been at odds since 2006, when new silos were added and the amount of dust and noise increased. The residents said it caused some of them to have respiratory problems, and they’ve pushed the committee to block the co-op’s expansion plans until the dust and noise is alleviated.

The co-op has delayed its plans and installed better dust filters, but hard feelings remain.

According to a complaint Mary Stocking made with the Traill County Sheriff’s Department on July 9, her husband, Tom, got a call from Dale Baldock, the co-op’s Mayville station manager.

Baldock had heard that Stocking, a committee member, had badmouthed the co-op after a committee meeting and threatened to take out an ad in the local paper. “She will be going down,” he allegedly said.

Soon after, Stocking said her phone was taken from her vehicle and thrown in the middle of a field, where she tracked it down using GPS.

Baldock said Tuesday that he just said he “should” take out an ad to let residents know what she was saying.

“A local business was badmouthing another business, which I didn’t think was right,” he said. “It’s not very good common sense when you’re in an agriculture community.”

Stocking is also the owner of the Pizza Shop in town.

She wouldn’t comment Tuesday, citing her business and the fact that she is “already on the planning and zoning committee, which is already a thorn in my side.

“It’s already escalated to this point,” she said.

Richard Moen, president of the co-op’s board of directors, said he has heard about the incident and feels bad. A board member has spoken with Stocking, which he hopes calmed things down, he said.

“Emotions are getting the best of people,” he said. “There are two sides to everything, so until everyone has all the information, people get emotional about things.”

In the meantime, Jay Harter, a Lansing, Mich., specialist in environmental law who represents residents pushing the co-op to clean up its air, has sent a letter to the board asking it to stop the intimidation tactics.

Such tactics “give rise to claims for tortuous interference with advantageous business relationships and business defamation,” the letter said.

This means the elevator is liable for any action its employees or representatives may take, said Craig Richie, the residents’ local attorney. “If someone is going around in my name and doing things that could cause me to be sued, I want to know about it.”

He said the letter serves as a notice to the entire board that it should try to control such actions.

“I think people of Mayville and the board of directors are better than that,” he said. “I don’t believe they know it’s happening and will allow this to continue. If they do know, they just have to stop it, and I think they will.”

The letter also applauded the board’s decision last month to delay its expansion plans and install better dust filters.

TJ Jerke writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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