HAVRE, Mont. (NMB) – In a 2-0 vote, Hill County Commissioners Mark Peterson and Diane McLean have voted to remove Bob Sivertsen from the Great Northern Fair Board.
Commissioner Jake Strissel was not at Thursday morning’s meeting, as he was attending the birth of his child.
Sivertsen has been accused by a handful of county employees of misconduct on the Fairgrounds. Allegations include removing the air conditioning from a work pickup during a heat wave, shutting two employees in a horse stall, using motor oil to try and combat mosquitos, and shooting pigeons and gophers with a .22 rifle — all against the wishes of the Fair Manager.
He had been given an ultimatum by the County Commission to either resign or be removed. Since he didn’t resign by Thursday, the Commission voted to remove him.
Following the motion being put on the floor but prior to the vote, Peterson and McLean had the following exchange:
Peterson: This situation has been talked about. Whether the information is 100 percent correct — it’s out there on the airwaves and Facebook and the paper and everything else — I cannot tell you. I did witness one situation myself, personally. So I know that part is true. We have a bad situation at the Fairgrounds right now between the management and the Manager and the Board. And we need to start getting this under control. So this is where we start.
McLean: This is never something that we take pleasure in doing. This is always done after multiple efforts to rectify the situation. We asked, and the Board itself, the Chairman of the Board and other Board members, tried to visit with this gentleman about actions that were, oversight that was just out of line. He was also visited with from one of us personally. And there just doesn’t seem to be any change in his actions. So it is why we’ve come to this point. That’s our final option, basically.
Peterson: With all of that that we have said that’s kind of been in the negative, I also want to recognize that Bob Sivertsen has put in a tremendous amount of volunteer time trying to get the Fairgrounds in shape. He did not sit in a chair all the time, he was out on the grounds for many hours a day. We talk about a 40 hour work week, I know for a fact that he put in over 200 hours in a short span of time. Working on picking rocks, everything that you can imagine to get that Fairgrounds in shape, so he was a very involved Board member. He attempted to do what he thought was right, and he did a lot of good things while he was there, but there were some things that we just couldn’t overlook. I’d just like to say thank you to Bob Sivertsen for what he did do, and the positive side of the Fairgrounds in the short time he was there.
When asked after the meeting, Peterson declined to elaborate on the incident he witnessed firsthand.
Sivertsen did not attend the meeting. He spoke with New Media Broadcasters by phone and provided the following statement on his removal.
I’m not surprised. I knew it was coming. And so it was really disturbing. And this community should be concerned about the actions of the Commissioners that were supported by the Fair Board. On day one of the beef barn incident, the Commissioners and the Fair Board pronounced me guilty. Their verdict was based on lies and distorted facts. Yet I was never allowed to tell my side. And I would have loved to have the accusers sworn under oath, so that I could have confronted them. I have previously served on the Fair Board for 26 years, 24 as Chairman. And we had a working Fair Board, we accomplished a lot. And without the one mill levy that they have now. When I was appointed in April, I went to work doing what no one else would do. Picking tons of rock, cleaning or performing tasks that weren’t going to get done. It’s called scoop trouble work. No one else was going to arrive at 4 AM or be there in the evening to set the water. I did my best to keep the area around the Bigger Better Barn clean. I worked an average of 250 hours a month because I wanted the grounds to look its best for the Fair. Now what’s alarming is that the County Commissioners and Fair Board has such disregard for justice as guaranteed by the Constitution. I wasn’t given my day in Court. These United States are closer to socialism than it’s ever been. Our rights are slowly being chipped away, and it’s happening right here in our community. If this community is ok with that, I will be greatly surprised.
Sivertsen has not denied the allegations, but says his side of the story vindicates his actions, and provided New Media Broadcasters with a lengthy written statement.
“You read exactly what I stated, and I stand by that,” Sivertsen added when asked if he disputed the allegations of shutting the employees in a livestock stall. “The distortions are what’s at issue here, and it’s what the County Commissioners based their guilty thing on…I was deemed guilty from day one. Period. By the statements made by Fair Board members and Commissioners.”
When reached for comment, Fair Secretary Anita Stevenson said Sivertsen’s statements about her have no merit.
Seriously? He’s the one lying. I would not lie about something like that, and having H.R. on the phone while Allee (Bartlett) was screaming her lungs out trying to get out of the stall while he had her pinned in there. I don’t think that was a stage act. That’s between him and the Commission at this point. It is what it is. If it was his 18-year-old daughter or granddaughter, how would he feel?
Stevenson added that Sivertsen should consider himself lucky that she didn’t end up calling the cops.
James Logan, who Sivertsen refers to as ‘Jim,’ says he quit due to micromangement from the Board, including Sivertsen, and not because of a conversation he had with English on his last day at work.
If there’s ten board members, then every one of them had something different to tell me how to do it. Nobody’s going to listen to that, and I wouldn’t. With Bob telling me what to do or saying how to do something — for one, I’m smart enough to know how to do something on my own. I repaired plumbing lines there, I repaired water leaks there in the RV parks, I repaired water leaks in these bathrooms, replaced toilet guts in the bathrooms. I didn’t need somebody up my ass to micromanage me. That’s just not me. And the other thing is, I felt bad if Frank is getting pressure because I’m driving a truck in there, alright…Frank knew what our agreement was. So by telling me that, he knew I wasn’t going to hang in there. I think Frank knew I would walk.
Logan says the last straw is when English told him that the Board said Logan, who is unable to walk long distances due to a disability, could not drive the work pickup on the Fairgrounds.
What Frank said is that the Board is on his ass for driving the pickup into the Fairgrounds. So I said ‘well, I’m done. If that’s it, I’m done. I’m not walking the stuff in there.’
With Sivertsen’s removal and Board Chair Josh Heitzenroder resigning at the end of the month, the Fair Board will be down to just two voting members as of August 1st.
When reached for comment, Fair Manager Frank English stated that he did not want to discuss the departure of Heitzenroder and Sivertsen from the Board, instead providing the following statement:
We’re on to bigger, better things now. Just looking towards the future and more events to be held at the Fairgrounds. I’m just looking forward towards moving on.