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Fargo city public works director investigated

Al Weigel is under investigation for fraud.

Fargo's director of public works and a vital figure in the city's 2009 flood fight was suspended with pay Wednesday and will be investigated by fraud experts on a complaint of not following proper procedures in the purchase of materials.

Al Weigel will remain on suspension while the matter is being investigated by the fraud division of a local accounting firm, Mayor Dennis Walaker told The Forum Wednesday night.

Walaker would not give details about the suspension, except to say, "There were some procedures that apparently were not followed and we need to have this investigation forthcoming. ... The procedures have something to do with purchase of materials and so forth."

Walaker referred questions to Fargo City Attorney Erik Johnson, who said it was typical to place an employee on leave when there's an investigation into a possible violation of policy.

Johnson confirmed the allegations against Weigel were brought to the attention of administrators by an employee.

"We decided this was the course of action we needed to take until all of the cards are obvious to everybody," Walaker said. "I don't want to pronounce any guilt or innocence until this investigation is complete."

Weigel was notified of the suspension at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and a two-line e-mail was sent out to inform some employees.

Two mid-level managers contacted within the Public Works Department said they did not know about the suspension or what it may involve.

Weigel did not return calls made to his cell phone Wednesday evening.

In Weigel's absence, Ben Dow, public works services manager, will be interim director, Walaker said.

The Department of Public Works is responsible for street maintenance, snow removal, water mains, the city fleet and city forestry.

Walaker, who was the city's public works operations director before he became mayor, said he didn't anticipate Weigel's absence would affect the community's spring flood fight. Fargo will begin filling sandbags Monday.

"It's not going to affect anything as far as I'm concerned," Walaker said. "We will continue providing services as we normally do. We have competent people."