Lame duck realities

BY ART CULLEN

Storm Lake City Manager Jim Patrick said in front of the city council Tuesday that The Storm Lake Times cost the city an extra $20,000 in its negotiations to evict Kinseth Hospitality as manager of King’s Pointe Resort. Patrick made the comment to our reporter at the council bench after a closed session where the “imminent litigation” presumably was discussed. We don’t know. We weren’t privy to the conversation. We have no idea how this newspaper could have played such a role; we were involved in no negotiations.

Patrick said it was from a story we published. We assume he referred to a March 10 story by Tom Cullen in which we reported that Bruce Kinseth was outraged that Patrick would lay responsibility for deferred maintenance on Kinseth. Patrick alleged the mismanagement during another closed session during which the manager left the PA system on so we could not avoid hearing the discussion as it was broadcast through City Hall. We did not report the terms that the council discussed or anything else that could leverage the “imminent litigation.” We reported the city’s essential beef with Kinseth: that the place was not being run right. We allowed Kinseth to defend himself against the claim that has been made to the council in secret for some time, obviously.

We are now free to report that the city was willing to pay Kinseth up to $100,000 to get out as of the previous closed (but not veiled) session. In the end, the city agreed to pay $120,000 to get rid of Kinseth. That was the city council’s call, on advice from Patrick.

The manager is attempting to shoot the messenger for his own mismanagement.

To wit:

How did Patrick allow the city’s relationship with Kinseth to deteriorate so badly that no communication was occurring? Why did no one pick up the telephone and call Bruce Kinseth to invite him to Storm Lake to straighten things out? Kinseth valued the franchise, it was making money for the city, and might have hopped to if anyone asked.

We would like to know why King’s Pointe is slated for more than $4 million in capital improvements when there has been almost no discussion of it over the past five years. We would like to know what happened to funded depreciation accounts. We would like to know why the city was not watching maintenance, furniture, fixture and equipment since it was budgeting for it.

We wonder what happened to all that money that was supposedly being budgeted.

We have asked. We never get straight answers.

Instead, we get blamed for reporting on essential information Patrick was providing to the council about an important public business, information that may or may not have basis in fact.

Answers to our questions will emerge over time after Patrick is gone and the confusion clears. That will be in May. We are happy to wait him out. We will be here to live with the consequences of his actions while he is hunting elk in Montana. Patrick can believe what he wants to believe out there.

We don’t understand why the council was willing to lay $100,000 on Kinseth if it were in breach of contract. We don’t understand why, if the city did not share any alleged negligence on the resort, the city would pay Kinseth a nickel. We don’t understand why, if Kinseth were such a bad manager, you would let them hang around while you search for a new manager. A professional would have a plan in place to boot Kinseth and install new management forthwith. It would appear to us that Patrick’s own decisions or lack thereof have cost the city $120,000 from King’s Pointe alone. Lord only knows what our liabilities may be for myriad storm sewer projects, deferred street maintenance, dredge breakdowns and the like. We cannot calculate the cost in deteriorated relationships with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the city of Lakeside, the unincorporated areas along the south side of the lake and Buena Vista County. It is plenty.

We cannot appreciate the economic opportunities lost by the city freezing out local businesses from professional contracts.

We cannot foretell the business lost by Patrick eliminating community and resort marketing.

And, we do not know how much the city might have saved by getting rid of Patrick long ago, eating the severance costs and moving on with a manager who at least knows how to turn off the broadcast system at a council meeting.

But we will figure out the costs from the Patrick years someday. We are feeling them now.

WHILE ON THE TOPIC of petty sums, it is at least ironic that Patrick can find $16,220 for an out-of-state firm to conduct a housing needs assessment of Storm Lake but he cannot find $16,000 to fully fund Storm Lake United. We all know Storm Lake needs more housing. Foutch Brothers knows it. Southwest Minnesota Regional Housing Partnership knows it. So do other developers from around the Midwest who are building and filling units in Storm Lake. Patrick could have used Iowa State University Extension. Or he could have used Storm Lake United to do the assessment. But Patrick chose to burn $16,220 on a study bound for the bottom drawer of a file cabinet. Just who is costing the city money?