BROKEN BOW–The recall signatures have been collected and filed with the Custer County clerk as part of the recall efforts against Broken Bow Mayor Jonathon Berghorst. Following an October city council meeting, KCNI/KBBN sat down with the mayor to address some of the recent accusations that have been circulating throughout the last few months.
In our conversation, Mayor Berghorst addressed the recent rumblings of the city of Broken Bow attempting to transfer its electrical department to Custer Public Power District. The mayor said this is not true and that the electrical department is the city’s biggest revenue.
“I’ve never said anything to that nature. The electrical department for the city is kind of its bread and butter. It is where two-thirds of the money comes from. The city wouldn’t be able to run if it wasn’t for the utility department so I’ve never said that or thought that,” Mayor Berghorst said.
Click here for the audio version of this story: KCNI KBBN Sits Down with Mayor Jon Berghorst
He added that as mayor, he does not have the authority to make a decision of such magnitude and it would be up to the board of public works adding, “It wouldn’t be my choice, it would be up to the board of public works. It would hurt the city.”
Another rumor the mayor addressed is the fact that union workers’ contracts are being negotiated within the city while Mayor Berghorst sits on the same union–as a private citizen–as his father Jeff Berghorst. The mayor said Jeff is the union steward and has worked with Broken Bow’s utility department for approximately 15 years.
The mayor added that according to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, there is no conflict of interest between the mayor’s association with the same union as his father or the city’s union workers’ contracts. The League of Municipalities handbook does not outline father as “immediate family member” to the mayor.
The handbook reads: “Immediate family member, defined. Immediate family member shall mean a child residing in an individual’s household, a spouse of an individual, or an individual claimed by that individual or that individual’s spouse as a dependent for federal income tax purposes.”
Regarding a claim stating the mayor hired out HVAC contracts (on behalf of the city) to a friend who was also allegedly involved in an April incident (which resulted in grievances and misdemeanor charges), the mayor said he cannot make monetary decisions.
He said Dustin Marten has done work for the city in the past but was hired by a supervisor. The mayor said he would like to start bidding out more jobs as time allows, even if a project is under $30,000 and does not legally require bids.
“I can’t make a monetary decision anyway. So it was a supervisor, they have spending power up to so much, and the board of public works,” Mayor Berghorst said. “Two grand here and there adds up in a hurry.”
Referring to a claim in which a property owner’s water line was repaired by the city, the mayor said it was an extreme situation regarding an elderly woman whose basement was flooding. He said the board of public works approved work to temporarily resolve the issue until the woman could get the line fixed.
The mayor had no comment regarding an incident that occurred in April but he did say, “I was voted in by the citizens of Broken Bow and I do have the city of Broken Bow’s best interest at heart and I’m here to listen to everybody.”
Mayor Jon Berghorst said he knows he cannot make everybody happy but said he is trying his best to fulfill the platforms on which he ran on as a write-in candidate: updating the city’s infrastructure and getting the city budget “under control.”
Mayor Berghorst had no comments about the recall petition but when asked about a statement made that he was an embarrassment to the community the mayor responded saying, “I don’t feel that I’m an embarrassment to the community. I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of my name and where I come from.” He added, “I’d like to thank my wife for standing by my side.”
In our conversation, the mayor said a lot of the grievances filed by city employees have been taken out of context but will be addressed during the pending grievance hearings.
“As far as the grievances go, I feel like I got a good relationship with pretty much all the city employees I guess. I respect what they do and they come in the morning, put a long day in, hard hours for the citizens and I know they’ve got the people’s best interest at heart too, they really do,” Mayor Berghorst added.