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City's legal fees for Fufeng-related items: $180,000 to city attorney's firm, $46,000 to California firm

Mayor says the city is not expected to need any further services from California-based Cooley LLP.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall (Grand Forks Herald Photo by Sam Easter)
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GRAND FORKS — The city of Grand Forks has paid more than $180,000 in legal fees to the firm of the city attorney for work associated with the proposed Fufeng wet corn mill and another $46,000 to a firm in California for services associated with a recent federal review of the project.

The latter was discussed during the most recent meeting of the City Council, at which the council received an overview from Bridget Reineking, of Cooley Law Firm. Although Cooley is based in California, Reineking works in Washington, D.C.

Reineking outlined the recent determination by the Committee of Foreign Investments in the United States on the proposed Fufeng project, which seeks to build a wet corn mill on the city's northern edge. After more than a month of consideration, CFIUS declared it has no jurisdiction on the project.

The city hired Cooley on May 18. Payments were made to Cooley at the beginning and end of July, three times in October and another at the end of November.

Council members were briefed by Reineking in early July . During that meeting, Reineking recommended the city work with Fufeng Group to undergo the review with CFIUS. Reineking spoke to council members once again during their Dec. 19 City Council meeting . At that time, she gave an overview of the CFIUS review process and answered questions from council members.

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After Monday's council meeting, Mayor Brandon Bochenski told the Herald he doesn’t foresee the city needing further advice from Reineking or the Cooley Law Firm. According to city records, $46,004 has been paid to the firm.

In addition to the work by Cooley, the city has paid $180,210.50 in legal fees to City Attorney Dan Gaustad's office — Pearson Christensen, PLLP — for services associated with the Fufeng project. The city also has spent $10,732.50 on Fufeng litigation.

The Fufeng project was first announced in November of 2021. In the 13 months since, it has sparked great controversy in Grand Forks, considering the company's ties to China and perceived national security threats due to its proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base. In September the city paused work on all Fufeng-related infrastructure after CFIUS requested more information about the project.

In October, CFIUS determined it would review the Fufeng project, prompting a 45-day review process.

Despite the decision by CFIUS that it has no jurisdiction on the matter, some opponents are still holding out hope that it can be stopped. Also, North Dakota Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven have the ability to request classified briefings from the committee. Cramer — a vocal opponent of the project — already has done so, he said last week.

READ MORE FUFENG NEWS
More than a year after it was first announced, the council on Monday voted 5-0 to move away from the Fufeng project. Council members Kyle Kvamme and Tricia Lunski did not attend the meeting.

Related Topics: FUFENG
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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“The Department of the Air Force deferred to the Department of the Treasury during the (CFIUS) review to assess potential risks associated with the proposed project,” the spokesperson said.