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Wendy Reuer, Published March 20 2014

Red River Valley Fair Board approves whistleblower policy

WEST FARGO – The Red River Valley Fair Board approved a new “whistleblowers” policy on Thursday that will protect anyone reporting possible wrongdoing by fair officials.

Brian Schulz, general manager of the Red River Valley Fair, said Thursday that the policy was recommended by human resource experts, and that a written policy to protect whistleblowers is a standard business practice for organizations like the Fair Association.

The policy makes it clear that staff or officials can report activity that is illegal or dishonest, such as improper conduct or misuse of funds, to their immediate supervisor, the general manager, assistant general manager, controller or board president. The policy protects the informant from retaliation and says the “confidentiality of the whistleblower will be maintained,” whenever possible.

According to policy, a whistleblower is protected against retaliation such as being fired, getting paid less, receiving bad assignments or threats of harm.

The board also approved new written policies night that regulate the use of fair-issued cellphones and credit cards. Schulz said only three staffers, including himself, have fair-issued cellphones and four staffers have corporate credit cards.

The Red River Valley Fair has flourished without staffing issues since Schulz, a West Fargo city commissioner, was hired as general manager in 2008. But Schulz’s hiring followed a number of tumultuous years for the fair after General Manager Bruce Olson was fired in December 2005. Olson sued the board, contending he had a contract and the fair should keep the job he had held for 15 years.

The fair countersued, claiming Olson stole or could not account for $292,049 over an unspecified period of time. The matter was settled out of court in 2007.

In 2006, the fair was investigated by the State Licensing Department after an anonymous complaint claimed that that the fair’s security, which is provided by Cass County sheriff’s deputies, were not properly licensed. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion that said the sheriff’s people could work security and traffic control at the fair.

The Red River Valley Fair Association is governed by a volunteer nine-member executive committee and a 50-member board of directors.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530