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Tribune Opinion: Kandiyohi County Board unwisely cuts public notices distribution within the county

Why did Kandiyohi County Commissioners Roger Imdieke, Duane Anderson and Dale Anderson significantly reduce the distribution of public notices from the households of Willmar and the majority of the county?

Bonus Editorial cartoon for Jan. 18, 2023
Editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett draws on growing reduction of public notices by county governments.
Clay Bennett / Chattanooga Times Free Press
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District 4 County Commissioner Roger Imdieke was named chair of the Kandiyohi County Board on Jan. 3. He did not talk at all about serving all in Kandiyohi County in his acceptance comments after being elected as the 2023 board chair. His subsequent action was to speak out against the motion naming the West Central Tribune as the legal newspaper of Kandiyohi County.

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Imdieke then immediately voted against the motion to accept the Tribune’s bid, which included full household coverage of Kandiyohi County via the West Central Tribune, a multi-daily newspaper; the Reminder, a weekly print publication; and free public notice access via the wctrib.com website.

Imdieke’s alternative was to support a legal publication bid from a weekly newspaper — the Lakes Area Review, which circulates primarily in print in the northern quarter of the county and has no website presence — for the county’s public notices. This newspaper’s distribution is not available even for single-copy purchase within Willmar or the southern part of the county.

In other words, Imdieke decided that all the households of Willmar — the largest city in the county — and the entire southern half of the county don’t deserve or need to see the public notices of Kandiyohi County in 2023.

The first question that many are asking is why did Imdieke speak and vote to restrict access of the county’s public notices from the majority of households in Willmar and Kandiyohi County?

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Public notices are increasingly important for public information purposes of all government entities. Public-notice legal ads are just one leg of the three-legged stool of open government, along with open records and open-meeting laws.
What is even more alarming is that District 5 Commissioner Duane Anderson, who represents the majority of southern Kandiyohi County residents, also voted against the Tribune’s legal bid and then made the motion for the secondary winning bid. Duane Anderson did this despite knowing the Lakes Area Review did not circulate significantly within his own county district or in the city of Willmar.

Again the question that many are asking is why did Duane Anderson vote to restrict access of the county’s public notices from the residents of his district and the city of Willmar. In other words, basically the majority of Kandiyohi County.

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And even more disappointing is the first County Board action taken by District 3 County Commissioner Dale Anderson, whose district includes portions of the city of Willmar. Dale Anderson first voted against the Tribune’s legal bid of full household coverage within the county, and then seconded Duane Anderson's motion to award the legal bid to a newspaper that covers only a northern portion of the county.

So, Dale Anderson either didn’t understand what he was voting on or apparently does not support full public notice disclosure to all the households in his own district, let alone the rest of Willmar and Kandiyohi County.

Again, the question many are asking is why did Commissioner Dale Anderson vote to restrict access to the county’s public notice from the residents of his district, the city of Willmar and the majority of Kandiyohi County.

The Kandiyohi County Board started the new year with a new Board of Commissioners and a new sheriff.

Imdieke and both Andersons spoke to the higher cost of the West Central Tribune, which is true. However, distributing via full coverage of the households in Kandiyohi County through the Tribune, the Reminder and wctrib.com comes with a higher expense. The Tribune’s bid provides all Kandiyohi County households full and complete access to the county legal notices, and does not restrict access to the majority of the county.

What is most disappointing is Imdieke’s growing anti-Willmar bias. He claims the winning bidder “(Lakes Area Review) is a locally owned small-town newspaper with its employees all living in the county.” Imdieke's statement is false. Both the West Central Tribune and the Lakes Area Review have ownership and personnel who live outside Kandiyohi County.

Apparently, all the workers from outside the county or working for companies with ownership outside Kandiyohi County do not have Imdieke’s support. If one followed Imdieke’s closed-minded logic, then only locally owned businesses should be supported over any other company doing business within Kandiyohi County. That would be ill-advised logic to follow and is not in the spirit of the long collaborative legacy of the Willmar Lakes Area.

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Do not mistake our criticism of the County Board’s decision to be about the winning bidder — the Lakes Area Review, a solid weekly paper with a good newspaper owner in Ted Almen of Kerkhoven, who owns several good newspapers in west central Minnesota. We congratulate Mr. Almen on winning Kandiyohi County’s legal advertising contract for 2023.

However, due to Imdieke, Dale Anderson and Duane Anderson’s poor decision significantly restricting public notice access in Kandiyohi County, the real losers are all the households of Willmar and the majority of our county residents who no longer have full and easy access to Kandiyohi County’s public notices.

The question remains: Why did Imdieke, Duane Anderson and Dale Anderson severely restrict the full distribution of public notices in 2023 from the majority of Kandiyohi County households? That is something voters should keep asking — and remember — the next time they vote for Kandiyohi County Board commissioners.

This Tribune Opinion editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune Editorial Board, consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.

The West Central Tribune Editorial Board consists of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.

The board can be reached at opinion@wctrib.com or 320-235-1150.
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