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Woman claims Williston police wrongly seized her vehicle

A woman has filed suit against the Williston Police Department, claiming officers seized and impounded her pickup truck and are refusing to give it back.

In a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday, Aug. 6, Paige Fleminger claims that in early July, she was riding as a passenger in a 2016 GMC 2500 pickup when an officer stopped the truck and had it towed away. When Fleminger tried to get her truck back, Ericka Davis, a Williston police officer, told her that on July 7, she’d seen the truck commit a traffic violation and that the driver of the truck drove off when she tried to stop it.

Davis told Fleminger that she could have the truck back if she gave police a statement about whether she or another person was driving, the suit contends.

“At this time, no charges have been filed against Ms. Fleminger or anyone else in relation to the alleged July 7, 2019 incident,” Jeremy Curran, Fleminger’s attorney, wrote in a motion to have the truck returned. “It is unlikely that charges will be filed based upon the information available to law enforcement at this time, which is the likely reason they are holding her property until she speaks to them. This seems to be a tactic to coerce a confession to a crime by what amounts to holding Ms. Fleminger’s property hostage until she admits to participating in a crime.”

The court filing does not say what kind of traffic offense the officer claimed to have seen.

In the filing, Curran also wrote that the police don’t need to keep the pickup, even if charges were eventually filed. Rather, prosecutors would use photos of the truck.

He pointed out that the fact police would be willing to return the vehicle undercut the fact their claim that it’s evidence.

“This further demonstrates that law enforcement has no legitimate purpose in retaining possession of this vehicle aside from using it to force Mr. Fleminger into confessing to participating in a criminal act,” he wrote.

Curran wrote that Fleminger is asking for her truck to be returned, for the city to waive any impound or storage fees and for the police department to pay for Fleminger’s attorney fees.

The police department had not filed a response to the suit as of Thursday afternoon.

The suit is the second one this year that claims law enforcement is illegally holding a vehicle seized during an investigation.

In March, Rick Markie filed a civil suit against the Williams County Sheriff’s Office claiming that in December 2018, investigators had used a search warrant for the OnStar system in his 2013 GMC Denali SUV to seize the vehicle. The vehicle had still not been returned in March.

“Any information gathered from the OnStar module could have reasonable been obtained within a few days,” Jeff Nehring, Markie’s attorney, wrote in a court filing.

The suit asks for the return of Markie’s vehicle, for compensation for the time police held it and reimbursement for attorney fees.

The Sheriff’s Office has not filed a response to the suit, but a trial is scheduled for Sept. 23. Nehring told the Williston Herald on Thursday that Markie’s vehicle had been returned.

Meg-A-Latte set to move into former Pizza Hut location in next few months

The former Pizza Hut building in Williston has been going through a lot of changes the last few weeks, in preparation for the opening of Meg-A-Latte’s new location.

The coffee shop, which currently has three locations in town, will be closing its store on 13th Street West across from Taco John’s, and re-opening in the new building on Million Dollar Way. Owner Megan Wold spoke with the Williston Herald about the new endeavor.

“We just kind of ran out of room at our location next to Taco John’s,” Wold explained. “We really wanted to expand our menu as far as food goes, we’d like to offer a lot more. So, we just needed the space for not only fridges, but countertops and everything else. With this new facility we’ll be able to have a lot more room to expand the things we’d like to offer.”

The menu won’t be the only thing expanding, as the new store will have a significantly larger space for patron to sit and enjoy one of Meg-A-Latte’s signature creations. The store will feature much more seating, an upstairs loft, as well as a drive-thru. Wold said as she and her husband began discussion about expanding, they started looking for locations that could work. When the Pizza Hut building became available, Wold says she simply couldn’t resist.

“Being from Williston, Pizza Hut has always like an iconic place for me growing up, and really for anyone in Williston.” she said. “When it went on the market, I thought to myself ‘Could we ever transform that in to a Meg-A-Latte?’”

After speaking with husband Eddie and father-in-law Mark, who owns Get R Done Construction in Williston, Wold decided to “jump on it.” After removing a large portion of the building, essentially leaving only the kitchen area, work began rebuilding. Piece by piece the wooden frame has gone up around the site, with more progress being done each day. All that hard work will soon come to fruition, as Wold hopes to have the store open in just a couple months.

“My hope is to be open by Oct. 1,” Wold said. “So that’s what I’ve been telling my husband and father-in-law to make happen.”

Once the new store is open, the former location will be closed and remodeled into Lounge 33, a 21 and over wine lounge, giving an alternate option for those who would like to relax and enjoy a drink without going to a bar. Wold said she wants to create a “chill atmosphere” where people can enjoy a glass of wine, appetizers and music with their friends.

“I never really go out in Williston because I’m just not into the bar scene, necessarily.” she explained. “My idea of having a glass of wine is very chill. Super quaint, not loud, not a lot going on. So I thought it would nice for our community to have a place that’s really loungey and relaxed.”

Wold says she hopes to have Lounge 33 up and running in November.

North Dakota Ethics Commission adds former mayor to its ranks

Williston’s former longtime mayor has been selected to join the state’s newly formed Ethics Commission.

The office of North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum released a statement on Thursday, Aug. 8, stating that a committee tasked with selecting members for the Commission had chosen its first five members, including E. Ward Koeser, who served as Williston’s mayor for 20 years.

Koeser is a former teacher, military veteran and business owner who served from 1994 to 2004 as President of the Williston City Commission.

Koeser said he was convinced by City Commissioner and District 1 Sen. Brad Bekkedahl to apply for the position, and was selected from a pool of around 70 other applicants. The selection committee consisted of Burgum, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson and Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford. The committee had its fourth meeting on Aug. 8, where they reached a consensus and appointed the members of the five person commission.

According to the release, the committee will also consist of David B. Anderson of Bismarck, a retired brigadier general in the North Dakota National Guard who now works as coordinator of military student services at the University of Mary; Ronald Goodman of Oakes, a former attorney and retired judge who served as a district court judge from 1994 to 2006; Cynthia Lindquist of Devils Lake, who has served as president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College in Fort Totten since 2013 and Paul Richard of Fargo, a retired executive vice president and former general counsel at Sanford Medical Center. Koeser said he was unsure about what his role within the commission will be, as it is newly established. He and the others will begin their work on the commission starting on Sept. 1.

“It’s a new commission that’s being set up, so we have to kind of start from ground zero and establish rules and guidelines and policies and things like that,” he explained. “It will be very interesting. I really don’t know what to expect, but we’ll do our best and see what happens.”

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in November 2018 to establish an Ethics Commission “to strengthen the confidence of the people of North Dakota in their government, and to support open, ethical, and accountable government.”

The news release adds that clarifying legislation approved in April requires the commission members’ terms to be staggered. Assuming all accept the appointments, Goodman and Lindquist will each serve a four-year term, Anderson will serve a three-year term and Koeser and Richard will each serve a two-year term, effective Sept. 1.

Scoping it out

Thomas Kvamme

Hegge resigns from Williston District 1 school board

Williston has lost two physicians and a school board member.

Dr. Theresa Hegge, who was a plastic surgeon at CHI St. Alexius in Williston and a member of the school board for Williston Public School District No. 1, has resigned from the board. She and her husband, Dr. Ryan Hegge, who was a radiologist at CHI St. Alexius in Williston, accepted jobs with Sanford in Bismarck.

Hegge’s last meeting with the school board was a special meeting on Thursday, Aug. 8.

The board has put out an application form for people interested in applying to fill the position. That form and the supporting documents must be returned to the district office by Aug. 15. Hegge ran for school board in June 2018 and was one of three elected that year.

She attended Williston State College and then completed her bachelor’s degree at North Dakota State University. She attended medical school at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis and finished a joint MD and Masters in Public Health degree at the UND-School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

She did a residency at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and Health Science in Plastic Reconstructive and Hand Surgery. She finished her board certification with the American Society of Plastic Surgery in 2016.

After the Aug. 15 application deadline, the school board will narrow the field down to three and choose a candidate to fill the vacancy.

Williston resident appointed to veterans committee

A Williston man is one of four people Gov. Doug Burgum has appointed to a 3-year term on the state’s Administrative Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Dan Brown of Williston, a veteran of the U.S. Army, was nominated by Disabled American Veterans.

Glenn Wahus, U.S. Navy veteran who lives in Watford City, was also appointed to the committee. He was nominated by the American Legion.

Burgum also appointed Dean Overby, a resident of Wahpeton, and James Verwey, a resident of Valley City.

Overby is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and Verwey is a Vietnam War Veteran who retired as a Command Sergeant Major after serving over 36 years in the U.S. Army, including the North Dakota National Guard

Members currently serving on the committee are: Richard Belling of West Fargo, Alan Fehr of Dickinson, Roy Fillion of Grand Forks, Dave Hilleren of New Town, Gary Maddock of Bismarck, Dave Rice of Fargo, Tom Ryan of Williston, Marlin Schneider of Bismarck, Murray Strom of Steele and Hal Weninger of New Town. The 15-member Committee will hold their next meeting Sept. 5 in Steele.