Port: Consider the mayor's motives in defending crude and racist comments

Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn is a disgrace, and deserved to be stripped of his position as deputy mayor, but let's not forget that Piepkorn has been doing Mayor Tim Mahoney's dirty work.

Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, center, and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, center. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, center, and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, center.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

MINOT, N.D. — Following yet another crude outburst during a city meeting from Fargo Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, this one featured him ranting about drunk Native Americans and telling homeless citizens to "get a job," his fellow commissioners voted to strip him of his title of deputy mayor .

Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn seconded a nomination of Arlette Preston for his previous deputy mayor position at Fargo City Hall on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

It was just deserts for Piepkorn, whose erratic behavior in office has been a disgrace to Fargo for some time, though in truth he deserves to be recalled to the ballot.

That may yet happen. I've heard rumblings from folks interested in giving it a shot. State law says a city official can be recalled with a number of signatures "equal in number to 25 percent of the voters of the political subdivision who voted in the most recent election in which the official sought to be recalled was on the ballot."

Eminently doable, and it ought to be done to rid North Dakota's largest community of the ignominy of being represented by a self-important blowhard like Piepkorn.

Stay tuned on that front.


For now, let's talk about Piepkorn's only ally in these disgraceful proceedings, and why that person was an ally.

Piepkorn was joined only by Mayor Tim Mahoney in voting against the motion to strip him of the "deputy mayor" title.

Why would Mahoney stick his neck out for Piepkorn in circumstances where the latter had behaved so poorly? Let's turn back the clock to the weeks before the mayoral election earlier this year, when Piepkorn verbally assaulted Mahoney's opponent during a city commission meeting.

"Kevin O'Leary had a point when he compared North Dakota's economic policies to Minnesota's, but in making it he made our state seem small and petty."
"A Sanford employee on a committee chaired by a Sanford-funded politician moved to reconsider a bill so that another Sanford-funded politician could make an amendment a Sanford lobbyist asked for."
"Even if Trump is convicted in the criminal justice system, it's not going to matter in the political system until Trump's supporters care about the honesty and integrity of their candidate."
"The way things are trending, the tax policy that emerges from this Legislature may tilt more toward failed property tax buydowns than income tax relief."
"But I suspect that won't stop many self-styled 'conservatives' in this era of Republican politics, dominated by reactionary supporters of Donald Trump, from accusing him of liberalism."

During a discussion over what was a routine amendment to a tax increment financing agreement, Piepkorn unloaded on developer Jim Roers, whose daughter is Shannon Roers Jones.

Both are also elected leaders and Republicans representing the Fargo area in the Legislature, and Roers Jones was, at the time, running against Mahoney in the mayoral election.

Father and daughter work together in the family business, and Piepkorn made it his business to turn what was a pedestrian bit of negotiation into a fatuous political spectacle. Piepkorn derided Roers as a liar and a fraud, and then made sure to highlight during his sleazy performance the connection between father and daughter.

“And the scary thing is, his daughter is running for mayor," Piepkorn told his audience .

It's sad to say that the rant seemed to work. Roers Jones ended up losing to Mahoney, taking third in Fargo's approval voting system. Piepkorn's stunt may not have been the only reason why Roers Jones lost, but it was certainly one of them.


Piepkorn's tirade against the Roers was no less excusable than his insults directed at Native Americans and homeless people, but it got a pass, perhaps because it was politically convenient for Fargo's commissioners to look the other way.

The targets, after all, were Republicans, and, in Mahoney's case, a political opponent on the ballot.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney
Forum file photo

Remember that, once the election was over, and the political motivations removed, the city commission quietly reached an accord with Roers and his company. That could have been done before the election, but behaving like normal public servants would have denied Piepkorn and Mahoney the opportunity to kick dirt on their political enemies.

And Mahoney is clearly still loyal to Piepkorn, which is why he was the only other member of the city commission to vote against removing Piepkorn as deputy mayor.

Also of interest: In the following vote to appoint a new deputy mayor, after Piepkorn was demoted, Mahoney also opposed the appointment of Commissioner Arlette Preston, the person who took second place in the mayoral election. “My concern is that Arlette Preston has her own agenda and that she would like to move forward with her own agenda,” Mahoney said by way of a lame justification for his vote.

Because nobody on the commission is allowed to have an agenda, except Tim Mahoney, apparently.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

Back in May, when I first wrote about Piepkorn serving as Mahoney's proxy to attack the Roers family, I called it "a contemptible display of incumbency protection that ought to concern the whole state."


That remains as true now as it was then.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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