Close Ranks and Cover-up

cover-up
noun. attempt to conceal embarrassing or scandalous information

12/29/2009
testimony

“So the house is gone, correct?” asked MHPC commission chair Chad Larsen in his authoritative, monotone. This entire meeting was an attempt to impose logic and order on the demolition of the Pauline Fjelde house.

Although the dropping of a pallet of wood on the fragile fire damaged roof and the impending blizzard were cited as the reasons for the “emergency” demolition, somehow it seemed that it all had been carefully planned to derail the City’s ineffectual bureaucratic process and bring the conflict between the Schoffmans, their attorney, their collaborator City employees and the Fjelde advocates to a planned, specific, endgame.

Many of the Heritage Preservation Commissioners who learned of the demolition of the Pauline Fjelde house when they arrived for the hearing were surprised and shocked.

Their discussion that night seemed an effort to make sense of the situation and
to try to find a way to assess whether the historic landmark designation could
continue or if something of historic significance could be salvaged from the debris.

Near the podium, the planners, and representatives from the City’s Inspections department gathered together as pre-arranged. It was clear that they had met before the hearing to plan a strategy. Advised by the City Attorneys of potential litigation from both sides, they circled their wagons, closed ranks and initiated their campaign to cover-up their own involvement and complicity in the destruction of the Pauline Fjelde house.

Everything they said was intended to justify the City’s approval of the Schoffman’s
demands that the Pauline Fjelde house was in eminent danger of collapse and had
to be destroyed via an emergency demolition on Christmas Eve.

As stated in a letter written before the hearing, neither Jim or Kristin Schoffman or their
attorney, Dan Kennedy were present. They knew in advance they would not have to be there.

Journalist John Hoff had seated himself near the podium and filmed some of the City employee’s
testimony. Angered at their deceptive “spin” Hoff decided to testify. He raged
at the City employees, he banged his fist on the podium. One of the Commissioners
went to fetch security. I went to him, put my hand on his arm and calmly asked
him to “Stop.” He did.

After he left, the anger of the Fjelde advocates was broken, the testimony became an expression of mourning, grief and defeat..

Although the interim protection was extended until February 2010, and there was talk about a salvage effort and a posthumous award of historic landmark designation to the Fjelde House. These discussions seemed to keep some hope alive that something would survive, but that hope quickly vanished.

We all knew it.

We had lost.

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