Grand Forks’ former community liaison is set to be paid as if he still worked for the city through the end of the year.
A day after he was sworn in, Mayor Brandon Bochenski on Wednesday fired Pete Haga, the city’s community/government relations officer. Haga waived a portion of his contract that guaranteed his employment for 90 days after Bochenski’s tenure began.
But Haga’s contract also stipulates that he’ll be compensated as if he still worked for the city for another six months. That means he’s in line to make another $52,956.80 – and collect pension and insurance benefits – through December.
The same isn’t true for Howard Swanson, Grand Forks’ longtime city attorney whom Bochenski replaced on Tuesday. Swanson wasn’t fired – instead, city leaders agreed to contract with a different lawyer over Swanson. Bochenski appointed Dan Gaustad city attorney on Tuesday, and the decision was unanimously ratified by the Grand Forks City Council shortly afterward.
Bochenski indicated that he does not intend to replace Haga anytime soon. Haga did not return a Herald request for comment on Thursday, but on Wednesday he pointed to a Facebook post he made as word of his termination spread.
“Through the years, it has been a privilege to be a part of teams of people who deeply love this community and that have amplified diverse voices across the community, strengthened the connective tissue that binds our resilient and caring community members, and implemented innovative strategies all in the mission to better Grand Forks,” Haga wrote.
Removing Swanson and Haga are among the high-profile changes the new mayor quickly made at Grand Forks City Hall. Bochenski also ordered city buildings to be reopened.
Haga’s compensation has been scrutinized in the past.
In 2012, then-Mayor Mike Brown raised the liaison’s yearly pay from about $71,000 to about $96,000. Then-council member Terry Bjerke criticized the move at the time, and again when he challenged Brown for the mayor’s chair in 2016. Brown defended the raise, which put Haga’s salary in the same ballpark as city department heads.