One of three city-owned parcels purchased illegally by two Winnebago council members in April 2015 is back on the sales block.
This time, however, sealed bids are being accepted rather than holding a public auction for the lot located at 435 First Avenue Northwest.
City Administrator Chris Ziegler says a public notice for bids has been placed in a local newspaper and on the city’s website.
“Bids will be accepted until the end January 31 and will be reviewed at the next council meeting in February,” says Ziegler.
City Attorney David Frundt, who was not the city’s legal counsel when the lot was sold nearly two years ago, was asked for some advice.
“The best practice is to be transparent,” says Frundt. “You are not required to accept the highest bid.”
During a public auction prior to a 2015 April council meeting, council member Jean Anderson purchased the vacant lot for $4,200 and another parcel at 106 First Avenue Northwest for $250. Councilman Rick Johnson paid $250 for a lot located at 328 First Avenue Southeast.
Ziegler says because there is no interest in the other two lots, they are not being advertised for sale at this time.
After more than five months, city officials contacted the League of Minnesota Cities and were told that selling real property to council members was illegal and violated the state’s conflict of interest law.
According to the League of Minnesota Cities website, under the conflict of interest section dealing the sale of city property:
* Officers and employees of the state or its subdivisions are generally prohibited
from selling government-owned property to another officer or employee of the
state or its subdivisions;
* and, property that is no longer needed for public purposes may be sold to an employee (but not an officer) if certain conditions are met.