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No one charged in outdoor party yet

July 23, 2018

 

It's possible that a 13-year-old girl may end up being the only one charged in the investigation of an outdoor party in the Bass Lake north shore area.

 

After more than two weeks of interviewing people, Faribault County Chief Deputy Scott Adams says no one has been cited yet.

 

He says authorities are trying to determine if someone furnished alcohol to the girl who was found lying in a yard unresponsive and intoxicated.

 

“Since she was unconscious, she could not submit to a breath test,” Adams says. “We are waiting for toxicology results, a certified blood-alcohol level.”

 

Winnebago Ambulance transported the girl to the emergency room at United Hospital in Blue Earth and she was later released after nearly six hours.

 

Adams says if someone is charged it will be for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which would involve furnishing alcohol to a minor.

 

When three county deputies, Winnebago police and Minnesota State Patrol responded to a call around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, July 7, there were an estimated 1,000 people at the event billed as “Wolfstock” on social media.

 

Unlike Martin County, prior approval from a zoning official and commissioners to hold a “mass gathering” in the county is not needed.

 

County Board chairman Greg Young says at the next joint meeting of commissioners from both counties, he plans to ask his counterparts why they require a permit and how well is it working.

 

“I hate to get more regulations if they aren't needed,” says Young. “We don't want to discourage people from having a good time. That's a part of living out in the country.”

 

Three members of FariCares --- Ryan Murphey, Jennifer Crawford and Aron Welch ---- say the non-profit group is working on a “social host” ordinance to help deal with underage drinking.

 

Under such a law, it would be illegal to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol. Hosts, residents or property owners may be held criminally responsible if a minor who consumed alcohol damages property or harms someone else.

 

Group working on "social host" law

July 19, 2018

 

FariCARES is a non-profit organization tackling the problems tobacco, alcohol and drug use among youths in Faribault County.

 

Currently, its main focus has been looking for ways to reduce underage drinking.

 

Three members of the group --- Ryan Murphey, Jennifer Crawford and Aron Welch ---- think now may be the time for county officials to consider a “social host” ordinance.

 

“It's definitely needed,” says Murphey. “It's another layer of accountability and a deterrent to the person hosting a party.”

 

The following incidents seem to lend support for the argument that there is a need for a such a law:

 

* About a year ago, nearly 60 minors were ticketed for underage drinking at an outdoor party east of Minnesota Lake near the Waseca County line.

 

* According to a teen who has pleaded guilty in an assault that occurred in Winnebago last October, there was alcohol at the house party.

 

* On July 7, a 13-year-old girl is found lying in a yard unresponsive and intoxicated in the Bass Lake north shore area where an estimated 1,000 people gathered for a party. She was transported by Winnebago Ambulance to the emergency room at United Hospital in Blue Earth and later released.

 

Dale Hurley, who son was reportedly beaten unconscious by four football teammates, says people need to know it's not alright to let minors drink at parties held on private property.

 

“My son could have died,” he says. “If we had such an ordinance, the party wouldn't have been going on with the parents turning their heads and being reckless with the kids.”

 

Under a “social host” ordinance, it would be illegal to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol. Hosts, residents or property owners may be held criminally responsible if a minor who consumed alcohol damages property or harms someone else.

 

“It gives law enforcement another tool and way to hold people responsible,” Murphey says. “It's going to help prevent older friends or siblings from doing this.”

 

Murphey, a Wells police officer and also the resources officer at United South Central School District, says he, Crawford and Welch are studying ordinances that have been implemented in other cities and counties --- like Austin, Albert Lea, Freeborn and Mower counties.

 

Crawford is employed as a social worker in the United South Central School District and Welch is the district's alcohol, tobacco and other drugs planning and implementation coordinator.

 

The trio has been attending a five-day training conference in Kissimmee, Fla., this week hosted by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

 

“By the end of this year we'll hopefully have an ordinance, but I don't know if it will be voted on,” Murphey says.

 

Violation of the ordinance is considered a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. In addition, a person may be held civilly liable, could possibly be charged with a more serious criminal offense and may face problems with their insurance company.

 

GCA staff in accident, no one hurt

July 16, 2018

 

This past weekend topped out quite an educational experience for three Genesis Classical Academy staff members.

 

Headmaster Renee Doyle, pre-school teacher Cherryl Cain and sixth-grade teacher Merilyn Yates were on their way home after a week-long training at Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, which is considered to be one of the premier classical schools in the country.

 

Then around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Chrysler Town & Country school van they were driving struck a large deer on Interstate 90 just east of Gillette, Wyo.

 

According to Doyle, the road was littered with dead animals and blood smears for a stretch of about 300 miles.

 

“We did our best to avoid it, even going as far as to have a spotter in the passenger seat,” she says. “But, it was very dark and the deer came across the other two lanes in the other direction and only visible in the last seconds.”

 

No one was injured and while the van sustained substantial damage to the left front side near the headlight, the vehicle could still be driven back to Winnebago.

 

School officials are waiting for damage estimates before getting the van repaired.

 

“Our van will be used to pick up students in the Amboy and Vernon Center areas this coming fall,” Doyle says.

 

The private non-denominational Christian school is located in the north end of the Heartland Senior Living facility and has more than doubled in size since opening in 2015.

 

GCA officials say 70 students have enrolled in grades pre-K through 7th for the coming school year.

 

Authorities get search warrant for BEA

July 11, 2018

 

Tripleanews.com has learned Winnebago Police were recently issued a search warrant related to the assault of a former Blue Earth Area football player last October.

 

Police Chief Eric Olson says the warrant was obtained for Blue Earth Area School District.

 

“Officer Jacob Petitt and I served the warrant last Friday afternoon at the district's administration office,” he says.

 

Olson would not give any details or specifics regarding the warrant.

 

“It's part of the ongoing investigation,” he says. “I have no further comment at this time.”

 

So far, four teens have been charged in the assault that reportedly took place during a house party in Winnebago following the football team's final regular season game.

 

Dalton Lee Nagel was scheduled to be sentenced on July 9, however, that has been rescheduled to Aug. 20.

 

Early last month, the 18-year-old Nagel pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting third-degree assault and a new charge of fifth-degree criminal sexual misconduct.

 

Nagel's sentencing has been delayed because a pre-sentence investigation has not been completed.

 

Blake Joseph Barnett, 17, has a pre-trial hearing coming up on July 23, after having four other pre-trial hearings that have had to be rescheduled.

 

Barnett is facing felony charges of third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

Court records show that Barnett has moved with his family to Des Moines and played on a high school varsity basketball team last year.

 

Information regarding another juvenile is no longer available to the public.

 

A court official says the juvenile was 15 years old at the time when he also was charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault. She says a court file should not have been made for public access.

 

Wyatt Tungland, 18, is scheduled to appear in court on July 27 for a contested omnibus hearing on charges of third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

Board asked about fate of Bago school

July 10, 2018

 

Winnebago city leaders are taking a proactive approach regarding Southern Plains Education Cooperative's (SPEC) plans to re-locate in Fairmont.

 

They want to know what's going happen with the building once SPEC shutters its doors after next school year.

 

Councilman Scott Robertson addressed Blue Earth Area School Board members during the public input portion of Monday night's board meeting.

 

While not speaking on behalf of the full City Council, Robertson says the city doesn't want to get stuck with a vacant building that will only deteriorate.

 

“There's one in Amboy that's stayed empty for years and is in pretty tough shape right now,” he says. “We're concerned about it.”

 

Board chairman Jesse Haugh told Robertson there have been no formal discussions about the school building.

 

However, that is expected to change since board members later in the meeting passed three resolutions allowing SPEC to move its operations.

 

Citing Delavan and Elmore as examples, Robertson says the district has set a precedent for cities to gain ownership of a school once it has been closed.

 

Robertson says the city could have various uses for the building, such as a child day care center.

 

Last month, the Winnebago Economic Development Authority board discussed whether Genesis Classical Academy (GCA) could use the building.

 

Located in the north end of the Heartland Senior Living facility, the private non-denominational Christian school has more than doubled in size since opening in 2015.

 

For the upcoming school year there will be 70 students enrolled in grades pre-K through 7th.

 

GCA president Bill Erickson says school officials currently aren't looking for a bigger facility because of the benefits gained from interaction between students and residents.

 

“We are not involved in the planning regarding the future of the Winnebago public school building,” he says. “We are only spectators at this time.”

 

Erickson does admit, however, that their current location isn't meeting all the needs of GCA students.

 

“GCA has made inquiries about using the Winnebago public school gymnasium, but SPEC has been unwilling to make this available in the past,” says Erickson. “This continues to be a need.”

 

Resident speaks out on outdoor party

July 8, 2018

 

A Bass Lake area resident says an annual event held around the Fourth of July in a private subdivision north of Winnebago is getting out of control.

 

“This thing has gotten bigger and bigger. It's a free-for-all,” says the resident. “It's just a matter of time that someone is seriously hurt.”

 

Around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, three Faribault County deputies, Winnebago police and Minnesota State Patrol responded to a call that an unresponsive juvenile female was lying in the yard of a residence located in the north shore area.

 

The 13-year-old girl was intoxicated and transported by Winnebago Ambulance to the emergency room at United Hospital in Blue Earth and released around 7 a.m.

 

The Bass Lake resident --- who did not want to be identified --- says the outdoor gathering for the past five years has been billed as “Wolfstock” and was promoted on social media.

 

Chief Deputy Scott Adams estimates there was around 1,000 people when law enforcement arrived at the scene.

 

According to the resident, it's not those living in the subdivision that may be the problem. Rather, it's all the other people who come out there.

 

“Some people leave for the weekend,” says the resident. “They don't want to be around and go on vacation.”

 

It's not uncommon to see under-age drinkers, says the resident, driving four-wheelers and golf carts.

 

“It is sad and disheartening how some people let their children run wild,” says the resident. “I don't think this is what we want to be known for.”

 

While there was someone directing traffic at the entrance to the subdivision, there is no security or any presence of law enforcement.

 

“They know who it is and what's happening, but they avoid it altogether,” the resident says. “If they come out here, they would have to do something.”

 

The time may have come, says the resident, for county officials to consider adopting a social host ordinance.

 

Under such a law, it would be illegal to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who furnishes the alcohol. It does not make it against the law to give alcohol to persons under 21, that is already illegal.

 

County Board chair Greg Young, who has served eight years as commissioner in District 2 and is seeking re-election, says commissioners would likely seek advice and guidance from the county attorney, sheriff and district judge if they decide to consider a social host ordinance.

 

“I would certainly think that this type of law would help maintain the welfare of the public,” says Young.

 

Authorities investigating outdoor party

July 7, 2018

 

Faribault County authorities responded to report of an unresponsive juvenile in the Bass Lake north shore area where hundreds gathered for an outdoor party.

 

According to the Sheriff's Office, dispatch received a call around 12:30 a.m. Saturday of an intoxicated female lying in the yard of a residence.

 

The girl had to be transported by Winnebago Ambulance to the emergency room at United Hospital in Blue Earth.

 

“She's 13 years old and was taken to the hospital for evaluation,” says Chief Deputy Scott Adams. “She was released early this morning around 7 a.m.”

 

Adams says Winnebago police and Minnesota State Patrol assisted the three deputies who were at the scene.

 

“It is estimated there were around 1,000 people there,” says Adams.

 

At this time, no one had been charged or arrested and authorities are continuing to investigate the incident.

 

Adams says deputies activated squad car “dash cams” when arriving at the scene and are currently reviewing any footage that was recorded.

 

“We're still interviewing people tonight,” he says.

 

Updates on assault cases hard to get

July 4, 2018

 

Obtaining information on three cases involving the assault of a former Blue Earth Area football player hasn't been easy.

 

E-mails to Faribault County Attorney Kathryn Karjala-Curtis from Tripleanews.com regarding the status of two juvenile cases have gone unanswered.

 

During a public meeting held last Thursday in Winnebago, Karjala-Curtis was asked how far along the juvenile cases were in the court system and why a sentencing hearing in another case was postponed.

 

Karjala-Curtis responded by saying she didn't know because another attorney in her office was handling it.

 

Dalton Lee Nagel was scheduled to be sentenced on July 9, however, that has been rescheduled to Aug. 20.

 

Early last month, the 18-year-old Nagel pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting third-degree assault and a new charge of fifth-degree criminal sexual misconduct.

 

Tripleanews.com has learned that Nagel's sentencing has been delayed because a pre-sentence investigation has not been completed.

 

One of the juveniles, 17-year-old Blake Joseph Barnett, has a pre-trial hearing coming up on July 23, after having four other pre-trial hearings that have had to be rescheduled.

 

Barnett is facing felony charges of third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

Court records show that Barnett has moved with his family to Des Moines and played on a high school varsity basketball team last year.

 

A person familiar with Barnett's case tells Tripleanews.com that he may be facing more charges.

 

Officials at the court administrator's office say information regarding the other juvenile is no longer available to the public.

 

A court official says the juvenile was 15 years old at the time when he also was charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault. She says a court file should not have been made for public access.

 

“Mistakes are made. They thought he was 16,” says the court official.

 

Wyatt Tungland, 18, will appear in court on July 27 for a contested omnibus hearing on charges of third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

The four players beat their 16-year-old teammate - a sophomore lineman - unconscious, says a criminal complaint, and took a cell phone video of the attack.

 

The alleged attack took place at a party held at a teammate's home last October in Winnebago.

 

Level 3 meeting focuses on public safety

June 29, 2018

 

More than 100 people attended a community notification meeting Thursday night for a Level 3 sex offender who will be moving to Winnebago soon.

 

In light of President Trump's rhetoric on illegal immigration, the question was bound to pop up.

 

“Where was he born? In America, or Mexico?” asked a person during the question and answer session.

 

A law enforcement officer was able to verify that 53-year-old Robert Martin Moreno, Jr. was born in Ohio.

 

Moreno, who has served 20 years of a 30-year prison sentence, is scheduled to be released from a Moose Lake medium security prison on July 9.

 

Because a Level 3 sex offender is considered a high risk to re-offend, a public meeting is usually held by law enforcement to provide information to local residents.

 

Sarah Hustad, community notification coordinator with the state's Department of Corrections, says Moreno will be living in the vicinity of South Main Street and Fifth Avenue Southwest.

 

“I know you probably don't want him here, but he has a right to live here,” Hustad says. “He has some ties in the area and was able to find housing here.”

 

In 1994, Moreno was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Blue Earth County when he gave a 7-year-old girl alcohol and then sexually touched her. He was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison.

 

Four years later, Moreno was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct of the same girl when she was 12 years old.

 

Hustad explained that sex offenders rarely have relationships with strangers, pointing out that 60 percent of the victims are acquaintances, 26 percent family members and 14 percent someone who they do not know.

 

“At first, he's going to be under great restrictions but eventually he will be able to walk around in the community,” she says. “Mr. Moreno will be held accountable. We have a system that will keep track of him.”

 

Gary Wilfahrt, who is Moreno's supervision agent, says he will be under house arrest with electronic GPS monitoring and must check-in daily.

 

In addition, Moreno will not be allowed to have contact with minors, consume alcohol, own a smart phone, use the Internet without a program that monitors his use, will be subjected to random drug testing and may not have sexually illicit material.

 

According to statistics released by the Department of Corrections, there are about 17,800 registered predatory offenders in the state. Of that amount, 50 are residing in Faribault County and 106 in Martin County.

 

Hustad and Wilfahrt stressed that local residents are important in helping law officials maintain public safety.

 

“You are the eyes and ears of your community,” says Hustad. “Trust your gut. If you see something that you don't think is right, call authorities.”

 

Hustad says most of Moreno's crimes have been committed while he has been under the influence of alcohol.

 

She says while in prison he successfully completed a chemical treatment program and nearly finished a program for sex offenders.

 

Moreno will be required to register as a predatory offender until July 8, 2028, and is under correctional supervision until Dec. 24, 2037.

 

“We operate night and day, 24-7, 365 days a year, weekends and holidays,” says Wilfahrt. “We will take phone calls anytime. Individuals are held accountable and public safety is our main goal.”

 

Statistics show that 90 percent of sex offenders do not re-offend and if they are sent back to prison it is generally because they violated a condition of their probation.

 

“This (meeting) is about raising your awareness about behaviors and not just Mr. Moreno,” says Hustad. “We do what we can do within the law. If he is bound and determined to commit an offense, there isn't much we can do to stop him.”

 

A fact sheet handed out by Winnebago Police Department describes Moreno being 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 240 pounds, having a medium build and a light brown complexion with black hair and brown eyes.

 

Meeting to be held for Level 3 offender

June 21, 2018

 

A community meeting for a Level 3 sex offender is scheduled to be held next week in Winnebago.

 

In a press release issued by Police Chief Eric Olson, Robert Moreno is expected to finish serving his prison term on July 9 and will be moving to Winnebago.

 

“This individual has served the sentence imposed on him by the court and is transitioning into the community,” says Olson.

 

According to the state's Department of Corrections website, Moreno was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, penetration or contact with a person under age 13.

 

Moreno has served 20 years of a 30-year prison term and is currently being held at a medium security facility in Moose Lake with more than 1,000 male offenders.

 

When the 53-year-old Moreno was eligible for release, an end-of-confinement committee determined his risk assessment at Level 3. That indicates Moreno has a high risk of re-offending.

 

Olson says the meeting will be held Thursday, June 28, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Community Room at the Municipal Center.

 

“Representatives from the Department of Corrections and Winnebago Public Safety will be available to provide useful information on public safety,” says Olson.

 

Details of Ziegler's evaulation skimpy

June 14, 2018

 

Winnebago's city administrator earned a favorable job evaluation at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

 

However, residents will never know why Chris Ziegler got a thumbs up from council members.

 

Ziegler and the council met in closed session for 35 minutes for his annual review before Mayor Jeremiah Schutt re-opened the meeting to the public.

 

“No action was taken during our closed-session,” says Schutt. “We went over a list of goals and achievements.”

 

Schutt's explanation falls short of what is recommended by the League of Minnesota Cities when summarizing results of performance evaluations.

 

According to League officials, a 2002 Information Policy Analysis Division Decision states the summary should provide enough information for the public to “get the best possible sense of the performance” of the employee.

 

Council member Jean Anderson told Ziegler, “Your accomplishments are noteworthy,” But, none were mentioned or discussed.

 

Ziegler, who celebrated his five-year anniversary on Dec. 3, thanked council members for the positive review and their comments made behind closed doors.

 

The council voted to give him a 6 percent pay raise, with 3 percent being retroactive to last December.

 

Two years ago, Ziegler was evaluated in 11 areas, such as leadership, communication, job knowledge and work quality.

 

On a 10-point scale he earned an average score of 7.3. and his annual salary was increased to $62,046 at that time.

 

Will GCA consider former Bago school?

June 7, 2018

 

Genesis Classical Academy (GCA) has more than doubled in size since the school opened its doors in 2015.

 

That could mean GCA officials will need to start looking for a new building in the near future.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler told Economic Development Authority board members at their meeting Wednesday there are 70 students enrolled in grades pre-K through 7th for the next school year.

 

“They are busting out of their seams,” says EDA board member Brad Wolf.

 

Once Southern Plains Education Cooperative moves to Fairmont after next year, what will happen to the former Winnebago Elementary School?

 

“Can we put Genesis in there,?” Wolf asked Ziegler.

 

EDA board member Doug Hill says Genesis using the elementary school is an interesting idea.

 

“It's a viable project, but it doesn't pay to speculate,” says Hill.

 

EDA board members agree that having a school in the city is an economic issue and they may have to decide if financial assistance should be provided.

 

The private non-denominational Christian school is located in the north end of the Heartland Senior Living facility.

 

Heartland officials are planning a $3 million expansion at the care center on the west side that will include 12 assisted-living units, office space and a community room.

 

In the past, they have said their plans are to keep the school at the facility because of the benefits from the interaction between the students and residents.

 

Teen enters plea in assault of teammate

June 4, 2018

 

One day after graduating with his classmates, a Blue Earth Area student charged in the October 2017 assault of a football teammate appeared in court for a plea hearing held Monday morning in Fairmont.

 

Faribault County assistant county attorney LaMar Piper told Martin County Judge Michael Trushenski that 18-year-old Dalton Nagel has agreed to plead guilty to aiding and abetting third-degree assault and a new charge of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

 

The criminal sexual charge, which is considered a gross misdemeanor, was added in an amended criminal complaint before the hearing. It has been reduced to a misdemeanor.

 

Dale and Tonya Hurley, parents of the victim, sat with a friend in the courtroom as Nagel took the stand and answered questions regarding the assault that took place at a house party in Winnebago the night of Oct. 18 or early hours of Oct. 19.

 

“It was hard to hear, it's been a long time waiting,” says Tonya. “I needed to hear him say the truth.”

 

Dale adds, “I'd like to take time and thank the Winnebago police, they did a great job. We thought this was going to get covered up. But, the truth is out now.”

 

In recalling what happened that night, Nagel says six to seven teammates including the alleged victim were drinking when he became loud and the others were afraid he was going to wake up the owners of the house.

 

“You hit him,” asked Piper. “That is not correct,” Nagel replied.

 

But, Nagel admitted holding the boy down while others punched him seven or eight times with a closed fist until he was unconscious.

 

Nagel couldn't say who actually struck the victim but was aware his face was swollen and pictures were taken and placed on Snapshot the next morning.

 

The alleged victim was lying down against a couch and not moving, says Piper, when Nagel dropped his trousers.

 

“You did what people call 'tea bagging.' You agree that your genitals touched his face?” Piper asked.

 

“Correct,” Nagel responded, adding he could not say if more than one teammate filmed the incident.

 

The Hurleys wept as they left the courtroom and met with Deb Wiederhoft, victim witness coordinator for Faribault County.

 

“As a mom it was sickening to hear,” says Tonya. “I don't know how it is going to affect my son the rest of his life, how he will be around boys when they're playing around.”

 

Dale and his son moved to Nebraska last January, while Tonya and her daughter stayed in Blue Earth until the end of the school year.

 

Hurley says he has been back for two days and they are finishing packing before the movers arrive later this week.

 

“It made me sick driving into Blue Earth,” he says. “If I have a message, It's I hope this wakes up Blue Earth. That parents pay attention to what is going on in your schools and with your kids, so this doesn't happen again.”

 

Trushenski ordered that a pre-sentence investigation be conducted and set July 9 as the date Nagel will be sentenced on the felony assault charge and misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct charge.

 

Hanson speaks out through his attorney

June 4, 2018

 

The former head officer of the Veterans Services Office for Faribault County says he was the victim of a hostile work environment.

 

Through his attorney Phil Villaume, David Hanson commented on the release of investigation findings related to a complaint filed against him.

 

“David Hanson denies any wrongdoing and states that he never had the opportunity to respond to the allegations,” Villaume says. “The subsequent claims made in the investigation against David Hanson were done in retaliation and never brought up in his 24-year career with Faribault County.”

 

Villaume says the investigation was the result of a April 2017 letter Hanson sent to Commissioner John Roper and then County Attorney Troy Timmerman regarding a Notice of Claim and Formal Complaint against the county's Human Resources Department for workplace harassment, disability discrimination and other violations of law.

 

Villaume says his client served in the military and after years of service to his country was honorably discharged.

 

“Claims made in the investigation were never brought up prior to his letter,” Villaume says.

 

Faribault County Attorney Kathryn Karjala-Curtis made the investigation results public

following an order issued by Watonwan County Judge Darci Benz denying Hanson's civil lawsuit to keep them private under the state's Data Practices law.

 

Hanson filed a suit when former County Attorney Troy Timmerman, at the request of Tripleanews.com, identified data that could be released under the Data Practices law even though the investigation was stopped after he resigned.

 

In e-mails to Hanson's attorney and an attorney for the county, Michelle Soldo of Soldo Consulting, P.C., in Woodbury summarizes allegations that Hanson:

  • engaged in conduct demonstrating poor personal and professional boundaries;

  • caused others to fear for their personal and physical safety;

  • violated county policy prohibiting weapons on county property and in his possession during work-related travel;

  • interfered with law enforcement efforts to ensure the safety and security of the Veterans Services Office and staff;

  • hindered the rights of others to report their work-related concerns;

  • and led to staff turnover.

 

Hanson also is accused of demeaning and discourteous behavior with regard to some veterans his office was in charge of serving.

 

“Witnesses consistently and credibly expressed that they are fearful of retaliation on the part of Mr. Hanson, independently and consistently citing his propensity to engage in paranoid, angry and volatile behavior leading them to fear for their personal safety and the safety of others,” Soldo wrote.

 

County attorney releases probe findings

June 1, 2018

 

The Faribault County Attorney's Office has released investigation findings of a complaint filed against the former Veterans Services Office head officer.

 

The move comes following an order issued by Watonwan County Judge Darci Benz denying David Hanson's civil lawsuit to keep the information from being made public.

 

Hanson filed a suit when former County Attorney Troy Timmerman, at the request of Tripleanews.com, identified data that could be released even though the investigation was stopped after he resigned.

 

In e-mails to Hanson's attorney and an attorney for the county, Michelle Soldo of Soldo Consulting, P.C., in Woodbury summarizes allegations that Hanson:

  • engaged in conduct demonstrating poor personal and professional boundaries;

  • caused others to fear for their personal and physical safety;

  • violated county policy prohibiting weapons on county property and in his possession during work-related travel;

  • interfered with law enforcement efforts to ensure the safety and security of the Veterans Services Office and staff;

  • hindered the rights of others to report their work-related concerns;

  • and led to staff turnover.

 

Hanson also is accused of demeaning and discourteous behavior with regard to some veterans his office was in charge of serving.

 

“Witnesses consistently and credibly expressed that they are fearful of retaliation on the part of Mr. Hanson, independently and consistently citing his propensity to engage in paranoid, angry and volatile behavior leading them to fear for their personal safety and the safety of others,” Soldo wrote.

 

In her interviews, witnesses told Soldo that Hanson was incessant with texting and calling staff during and after work hours and he would admonish staff who did not promptly respond.

 

In one instance, Hanson made an unscheduled visit to a Twin Cities training site of an employee who did not respond to his text message and phone calls.

 

Hanson reportedly would make uninvited and unscheduled after-work and late-night visits to employee homes.

 

In the e-mails, County Attorney Kathryn Karjala-Curtis blacked out the names of county employees to protect their identity.

 

One person interviewed told Soldo that Hanson made repeated offers to go an employee's home and make dinner for them.

 

Another person says Hanson reportedly would make sexually suggestive remarks about an employee.

 

In Soldo's report, Hanson is said to have had angry outbursts in the office and displayed paranoid behavior.

 

The report says Hanson would make remarks that when terrorists or law enforcement come to remove him from the office he can and is ready to take them out and “if they come, save the radio.”

 

At times, Hanson was accused of traveling to and from work-related meetings in his personal vehicle in which he kept a Glock handgun and he showed staff where he kept it in the middle console.

 

Twice he hid a loaded handgun in the car of an employee, says the report, without their permission and knowledge, endangering those who rode in the vehicle.

 

“(He) sent a text message to a staff member that if an employee does not cooperate with them, he will take the employee for a ride in his car where he showed the staff member he keeps a Glock handgun,” says the report.

 

Hanson allegedly disconnected security cameras law enforcement installed in the Veterans Services Office when he and staff expressed concern about them.

 

The report says the Veterans Services Office had high turnover of staff due to Hanson's micro-managing, refusal to train, taking credit for the work of others, and halting initiatives and work efforts.

 

Some interviewed told Soldo that Hanson gave a verbal directive that staff are not to report their work-related concerns to anyone but him.

 

Staff were told that they were hated by some county employees and that law enforcement thought they were “white trash.”

 

Judge closes former employee's hearing

May 22, 2018

 

A judge was persuaded to hear a former Faribault County employee's case behind closed doors last Thursday in Blue Earth.

 

Attorney Jeffrey Schiek of Minneapolis and Watonwan County Judge Darci Benz met in the judge's chambers 25 minutes prior to the start of the hearing.

 

Schiek evidently was able to convince Benz that a scheduled open hearing should not be open to the public.

 

Benz offered no explanation for her decision and responded, “No you may not,” when asked if she would answer questions after the hearing.

 

Mark Anfinson, an attorney for the Minnesota Newspapers Association, called the judge's action “definitely troubling.”

 

“This is very rarely allowed and requires a clear demonstration of significant, specific reasons for confidentiality,” he says. “The simple agreement of attorneys is not at all sufficient.”

 

Anfinson says there's a state Supreme Court ruling that spells out what procedures need to be followed to close a hearing.

 

Schiek is representing former Veterans Services Office head officer David Hanson, who is trying to block release of any investigation findings relating to a complaint filed against him.

 

In court documents, former County Attorney Troy Timmerman and the county are listed as the defendants.

 

Benz is hearing the case for Timmerman, who was appointed judge for the Fifth Judicial District in January and recused himself to avoid any conflict of interest.

 

Soldo Consulting, P.C., of Woodbury was looking into the complaint when Hanson resigned last August and agreed to a $36,000 separation agreement with the county.

 

The investigation was halted after Hanson stepped down and Michelle Soldo billed the county $6,334 for the work she had done.

 

Information as to the nature of the complaint, when and who filed it has never been made public.

 

Anfinson says under the state's Data Practices law information about a complaint must be disclosed even if no discipline occurs and an employee who is considered a “public official” resigns.

 

Under the law, in a county with a population of more than 5,000, a “public official” is defined as managers, chiefs, heads or directors of departments, divisions, bureaus, or boards, and any equivalent positions.

 

Also, if a public official resigns or is terminated from employment while the complaint or charge is pending, all data relating to the complaint or charge are public, unless access to the data would jeopardize an active investigation or reveal confidential sources.

 

After a 30-minute hearing with Schiek and the county's attorney Susan Hansen, Benz took the case under advisement.

 

Attorney surprise to hear about YSI files

May 15, 2018

 

 

An attorney involved in a lawsuit against the shuttered Elmore Academy was unaware several boxes of files of former students marked “confidential” were recently purchased at an auction held in Blue Earth.

 

“I'm going to start making some phone calls to see what is going on,” says Jeff Storms, attorney for Cullen Kennedy.

 

“I am very interested in making sure that everyone's confidentiality is kept private,” he adds.

 

The youth detention facility opened in 1998 and was shut down four years ago following allegations of abuse and accusations that staff was housing non-violent teen with violent ones.

 

Scott Adams, Faribault County chief deputy, says Blue Earth police are in charge of handling the files because the auction took place in the city.

 

“We will assist them in taking custody of the records. There are so many boxes.” says Adams. “The county attorney's office is involved as well, to decide what should be done.”

 

According to a news report, a man paid $20 for the storage unit that had files containing Social Security numbers, medical and criminal on teenagers who attended the academy.

 

Blue Earth police chief Tom Fletcher could not be reached for comment.

 

In the suit filed in federal court in Minneapolis, Kennedy contends he suffered a badly broken jaw after being beaten and that school officials failed to protect him after receiving repeated threats from a fellow student.

 

Kennedy, who was 14 years old at the time, was arrested for fleeing police in 2012 and taken to Elmore Academy.

 

According to complaint, he was soon beaten by inmates “until they were too tired to continue” the assault.

 

Kennedy alleges that staff at the facility did nothing to protect him, instead returned him to the general population.

 

He is seeking monetary damages from parent company Youth Services International (YSI), five former academy officials, five former guards referred to in the suit as “John Does,” and Faribault and Martin counties.

 

His lawsuit also points to other federal cases brought against YSI centers across the country that date to 1997. According to court documents, YSI dissolved in October 2017.

 

BEA officials lift ban on students?

May 14, 2018

 

Blue Earth Area School District officials apparently have had a change of heart.

 

And, Superintendent Evan Gough isn't saying why.

 

“I am unable to provide a response due to information about students being generally classified as private educational data,” says Gough.

 

At least one of the students charged in the assault of another student last October was allowed to attend Prom held April 28.

 

“I am very, very disappointed they're being allowed to take part in school events,” says Dale Hurley, father of the alleged victim.

 

After the four students were charged last November, district officials decided not to let them take part in sports or other school activities. Two of the students have moved out of the district.

 

Hurley says he was made aware that one of the students has gone out for a spring sport.

 

But, Tripleanews.com has not been able to confirm that or whether others also attended Prom.

 

When asked what policies or procedures were used to lift the ban on the students, Gough referred to the state's data practices law as to why he could not give more information.

 

Instead, Gough provided copies of a one-page Prom information sheet and a 20-page student discipline policy.

 

Winnebago part-time officer resigns

May 12, 2018

 

Winnebago and Elmore have one less part-time police officer on the force.

 

He resigned so we wouldn't have to take action on the complaint against him,” says David Frundt, who serves as city attorney for both cities.

 

City Council members in each city accepted the resignation of Colton Ryg during their regular meeting this month.

 

In Winnebago, Ryg's last day with the department was effective April 21.

 

“He's also agreed to drop any claims he may have had against the city,” Frundt says.

 

Ryg's departure ends a saga that began nearly three months ago.

 

In February, Winnebago council members became aware of the complaint and held two closed-sessions to discuss the matter.

 

Ryg's had been with the Winnebago Police Department for nearly a year and was still on probationary status in Elmore.

 

On Dec. 18, 2017, Elmore Police Chief Steve Linde filed a complaint against Ryg after receiving a report from Albert Lea police regarding an incident at a hairstyling business.

 

Ryg reportedly had a verbal confrontation with the owner over the firing of his girlfriend.

 

No criminal charges were ever filed against Ryg, however, Linde says he did violate at least three policy principles.

 

EDA discusses vacant commercial sites

May 8, 2018

 

A city development group wants something done about two vacant commercial properties in Winnebago.

 

“It's an eye sore when you drive into Winnebago,” says Mayor Jeremiah Schutt. “I get complaints about that every once in a while.”

 

Schutt is referring to the J M Manufacturing building that has been empty since April 2007, when the plastic pipe maker was closed.

 

Economic Development Authority (EDA) board member Doug Hill says he recently tried to contact company officials headquartered in Los Angeles.

 

“I left messages, but have been unsuccessful,” says Hill. “We need to step up our efforts to contact them. The building is just sitting there and falling down. It's disconcerting.”

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says the company is still billed $60 a month for water service.

 

J M Manufacturing also continues to pay property taxes on seven parcels totaling nearly 31 acres.

 

Last year, J M paid $20,992 in taxes; $21,232 in 2016; and $21,103 in 2015. This year the company is scheduled to pay $20,464.

 

On another matter, board member Brad Wolf says the city needs to find a tenant a 32,000 square foot facility owned by Zierke Built Manufacturing.

 

Wolf says he has briefly talked to Greg Zierke about his plans with the building, which is priced at $400,000.

 

“With that selling price, I don't know why we can't get someone in there,” he says. “It's a steal and a no-brainer.”

 

Fellow board member Scott Lehman agrees with Wolf, saying that the EDA should consider spending money to promote its sale.

 

“I think that would show the city is really trying to put an effort in attracting businesses. It would send a message,” says Lehman.

 

Mary Kennedy of Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) told EDA board members says she would like a tour of both sites.

 

She says the two properties could be among other sites listed for sale by the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development.

 

Faribault County and Blue Earth each pay CEDA, headquartered in Chatfield, $50,000 annually to provide economic development services.

 

Kennedy splits her time between the county's office located at the Ag Center and the city's at City Hall.

 

Ziegler moves, remains working for city

April 29, 2018

 

Despite any rumors you may have heard, Winnebago's city administrator is staying put.

 

At least, job-wise.

 

Last fall, Chris Ziegler and his family moved to a farm near Easton, where he grew up.

 

The Century Farm was homesteaded by his great-great-grandfather after returning from service in the Civil War.

 

“I am the fifth generation to live there and my children are the sixth generation,” says Ziegler. “That is pretty special to me.”

 

For Ziegler and his wife Barb, leaving Winnebago and putting their home up for sale was a difficult decision to make.

 

“It is sad to leave, especially the house that Barb grew up in,” he says. “But, it was the right thing for us to do.”

 

Ziegler began working with the city as deputy clerk prior to being hired as city administrator in December 2012.

 

“I'm still committed to Winnebago in a lot of ways, so it's not like I'm cutting off all contact or anything,” he says.

 

Complaint against officer remains open

April 25, 2018

 

After more than two months, a complaint filed against a Winnebago part-time officer still hasn't been settled.

 

“Something is in the works, but I cannot tell you about it yet,” says City Attorney David Frundt. “I do anticipate either calling a special meeting before the May meeting or that the matter will be resolved at the May regular meeting.”

 

At their Feb. 13 meeting, council members met in closed-session for nearly one hour to discuss whether to take disciplinary action. When the meeting was re-opened to the public, no action was taken.

 

Instead, a hearing was scheduled and held on Feb. 27 for officer Colton Ryg and his attorney to discuss the matter.

 

City officials were expecting a lengthy meeting and set aside two hours, however, Ryg and his attorney did not attend.

 

Again, the council decided not to take any disciplinary action after meeting behind closed doors for 25 minutes.

 

Ryg has been on the force part-time for nearly a year, starting his employment during Bago Fun Fest last June.

 

Frundt says Ryg is still working part-time in Winnebago as well as Elmore.

 

According to a complaint filed on Dec. 18, 2017, by Elmore Police Chief Steve Linde, Ryg entered a hairstyling business in Albert Lea to talk with the owner to find out why his girlfriend was fired.

 

Ryg reportedly requested a copy of his girlfriend's personal file, but the employee told him she could not give out the information.

 

The employee says Ryg told her he was going to file a lawsuit because, “This isn't right.”

 

Ryg told the employee he was a police officer, says the complaint, and lifted up his shirt to show her his badge.

 

“Here is my badge, we will see what happens,” Ryg told her.

 

The employee says Ryg left the store and sat in his truck with his girlfriend about seven minutes before returning.

 

According to the complaint, Ryg again requested a copy of his girlfriend's personal records. At this point, the employee says she felt concerned for her and her co-worker's safety.

 

After Ryg left the store, the employee called the Albert Lea Police Department. However, no criminal charges were filed.

 

On Dec. 11, Albert Lea police contacted the Elmore Police Department by phone and e-mailed a copy of their report.

 

In a summary by Linde, the police chief says Ryg violated at least three policy principles.

 

Winnebago to get fast-food restaurant

April 15, 2018

 

A new place to eat will be opening soon in Winnebago and for a local businessman he'll be returning to a familiar spot.

 

Scott Robertson, who also serves on the City Council, says he plans to re-open a restaurant at the former Tasty Treatz site on South Main.

 

“My mom and dad ran a Dairy Queen there from 1965 to 1974,” he says. “It seems like it's something I was always going to do. It's like I'm coming back home.”

 

The building has been empty for more than two years and has been sold at least two times, however, the purchases fell through.

 

Robertson says the building for the most part is in good condition, but he's doing some painting to spruce it up and ready for business within the next two months.

 

“It will be open by Fun Fest, I have to be,” he says. “I've heard nothing but positive feedback about opening it.”

 

The menu will consist of burgers and fries, chicken sandwiches, ice cream treats and other “fast-food” items.

 

Robertson says the lack of places to eat between Blue Earth and Mankato was a factor in deciding to open the restaurant.

 

Also, he says a number of construction projects will be going on in the area, including the re-surfacing of Highway 169.

 

“I just think that the timing is right,” says. “It's a leap of faith. Hopefully people support it.”

 

Although he's 80 percent sure on a new name for the business, Robertson says he still needs to get the final O.K.

 

Anyone interested in applying for a job may contact Robertson by e-mail at robson1@bevcomm.net or call (507) 525-2234.

 

Report: BEA officials go by the book

April 12, 2018

 

Blue Earth Area Schools administrators followed proper procedure when disciplining four students charged in the alleged assault of a football teammate last October in Winnebago.

 

That's the opinion of Michelle Soldo of Soldo Consulting, P.C., who was hired in February to do an independent investigation.

 

In a letter to Superintendent Evan Gough, Soldo says district officials with the advice of legal counsel conducted timely and thorough preliminary and expanded investigations for more than a month.

 

“Speculation, conjecture and uninformed allegations that district actions were not prompt and appropriate are refuted by the record,” she wrote.

 

School Board chairman Jesse Haugh says a 10-day suspension given to each student and not allowing them to compete in sports or extracurricular activities were part of the review.

 

“I have a lot of faith in Rich (Schneider) and Evan (Gough) that we went through the proper process,” says Haugh. “But, it's good to have a third party look at it.”

 

Soldo says a “confidential memorandum” provided to district officials contains private education data, private personnel data and confidential investigative data that cannot be released.

 

Although pleased with the result, two board members want a little more information.

 

Jeremy Coxworth says he wants to know how much the district had to pay Soldo for the report.

 

Soldo Consulting was hired at an hourly rate of $145, plus mileage, lodging costs if necessary and any postage or copying costs.

 

Amber Patten asked Gough if he knew how many people were interviewed during the investigation.

 

“I would really like to have the information,” says Patten. “Can we follow up on that?”

 

Teen charged in assault arrested

April 9, 2018

 

A teen charged in an alleged assault that occurred last October in Winnebago is in legal trouble again.

 

According to the Faribault County Jail roster, 18-year-old Wyatt Eugene Tungland of Frost was arrested and booked into custody at 2:34 a.m. Saturday.

 

Tungland faces pending charges of liquor consumption under age 21, fleeing a peace officer and crime against administration of justice.

 

On Friday, Tungland was scheduled to appear at an omnibus hearing for third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault, but that was canceled.

 

An evidentiary hearing for three other alcohol-related charges scheduled on the same day also was not held.

 

Also charged in the assault that reportedly took place at a house party in Winnebago were 18-year-old Dalton Lee Nagel, 17-year-old Blake Joseph Barnett and 16-year-old Caden Ochsendorf.

 

Nagel recently pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting third-degree assault and was granted a three-day jury trial that has yet to be scheduled.

 

Barnett and Ochsendorf were charged in juvenile court with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.
 

Hiring investigator a waste of money?

April 6, 2018

 

Paying for a report to regain the public's trust may not have been necessary after all.

 

Results of an investigation conducted by a Woodbury firm to determine whether disciplinary action taken against four Blue Earth Area High School students charged in an alleged assault was proper are expected soon.

 

In February, School Board members hired Soldo Consulting, P.C., to conduct an independent review.

 

At the time, board member Sheila Ripley wondered why a review was needed and if it was being done only to please a few who have been critical of administrators.

 

Craig Perry, associate director of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), says school officials have the power under the league's bylaws to decide if a student is in “good standing” and may participate in a MSHSL program.

 

“Eligibility decisions do not have to be based on the outcome of charges through the legal system,” says Perry. “Administration determines if a student does not meet all eligibility requirements and conditions of the school as well as the state high school league.”

 

The students were each given a 10-day suspension and have not been allowed to compete in sports or extracurricular activities.

 

Three of the students were returning letterman on the wrestling team, while another moved to Des Moines and played on a school's varsity basketball team.

 

Soldo Consulting is being paid an hourly rate of $145, plus mileage, lodging costs if necessary and any postage or copying costs.

 

At last month's board meeting, chairman Jesse Haugh said Soldo Consulting will likely have its report completed by the April meeting.

 

New prosecution team handling cases

March 27, 2018

 

A father whose son was allegedly beaten by four Blue Earth Area football teammates is hoping justice doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

 

In early January, Faribault County Attorney Troy Timmerman was sworn in as a judge in the Fifth Judicial District.

 

The County Board in February hired Lamar Piper on an interim basis to replace assistant county attorney Graham Berg-Moberg, who took a similar position in Aitkin County.

 

Dale Hurley says the recent shakeup in the County Attorney's Office had him concerned.

 

“Some have hired high-powered attorneys,” says Hurley. “I just hope we don't get steamrolled.”

 

Charged in the alleged assault that took place last October at a house party in Winnebago were 18 year olds Wyatt Eugene Tungland and Dalton Lee Nagel, 17-year-old Blake Joseph Barnett and 16-year-old Caden Ochsendorf.

 

Hurley says he has talked with new County Attorney Kathryn Karjala-Curtis, who assumed her new duties in mid-January. Earlier this month, Mindy Quitten was hired as the assistant county attorney.

 

“I feel like she is doing everything she can. They have put our worries to rest for now,” Hurley says.

 

On Monday in Faribault County District Court, Nagel pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

Martin County Judge Michael Trushenski granted Nagel's attorney, Michael Kircher, request for a three-day jury trial. At this time, a date has not been set.

 

Tungland is scheduled to appear at a contested omnibus hearing on April 6 on charges of third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

Barnett and Ochsendorf of Winnebago were charged in juvenile court with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

Workgroup to address security issues

March 12, 2018

 

Despite spending more than $382,000 to improve security at Faribault County buildings and offices, there's still some tweaking that needs to be done.

 

At the last County Board meeting, Sheriff Mike Gormley and Chief Deputy Scott Adams gave a report on a security issue that occurred early last month.

 

Adams says that someone at the Human Services building pushed the “red panic” button and that he and a deputy who were nearby responded to the call.

 

When they arrived, someone with a backpack was standing outside the annex portion between the courthouse and Human Services building.

 

“He was uncooperative,” says Adams. “It looked like he was reaching into the backpack for something. We found some knives and drugs.”

 

According to a court complaint, two large fixed-blade knives were found in the backpack.

 

Dwayne Eugene Money, 24, of Blue Earth was charged and pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault of peace officer and a fifth-degree drug charge. A disorderly conduct charge was dismissed.

 

An ongoing workgroup has been formed to address security issues. Members include Gormley, Adams, auditor John Thompson, central services director Dawn Fellows, Troy Beckman, and commissioners Greg Young and Tom Loveall.

 

Adams says the group may look at installing additional surveillance camera angles and staff training.

 

“Staff has received training in a lot of areas, but nothing on what to do if they see someone with a backpack,” he says.

 

Adams says another solution may involve having a full-time deputy assigned to the courthouse.

 

“There a lot of courthouses that have gone to that. It's very common,” he says. “That might be something that we'll have to do and may be a matter of time it happens here. The safety of our staff and the public is our main concern.”

 

BEA principal seeks superintendent post

March 8, 2018

 

Blue Earth Area (BEA) School District may have to start looking for a new high school principal.

 

Richard Schneider has applied for the superintendent position of Le Sueur-Henderson Schools.

 

BEA administrators have been criticized and come under fire for their disciplinary action against four students involved in an alleged assault last October.

 

A few residents in the district have even demanded that some administrators be fired because of their handling of the incident.

 

“The decision (to apply) has nothing to do with any of the events of this past year, but rather the opportunities that very seldom come around,” says Schneider.

 

“Whenever a position becomes available, a candidate must consider whether it would be a good fit. My wife, Sheri and I lamented for a long time over whether we would ever consider leaving this community. We agreed that it had to be the right opportunity for us,” he adds.

 

Schneider has been principal at BEAHS for 6 years since moving from South Dakota.

 

Schneider says he earned an endorsement to become a superintendent because it is a natural progression for school administrators.

 

On Wednesday, the Le Sueur-Henderson School Board interviewed Schneider and five other candidates in their first round of interviews.

 

Schneider says leaving BEA would be a difficult decision because he values the relationships he has fostered with students, staff, parents and community members.

 

“I am very proud to say I am from Blue Earth Area School District. I do not hang my head when speaking about our school because I do not believe that these past events have told the whole picture,” he says. “We have much to be proud of and will continue to be a prideful community.”

 

Council takes no action on complaint

February 28, 2018

 

The Winnebago City Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss a complaint filed against a part-time police officer.

 

After nearly 25 minutes behind closed doors, council members decided not to take any disciplinary action against Colton Ryg, who has been with the department since last June.

 

Council member Rick Johnson may have given a hint as to what city officials might do at a future meeting.

 

Johnson made a motion to have the city make a $750 payment, however, at the advice of City Attorney David Frundt it was quickly taken off the table.

 

Frundt had no comment on Johnson's motion and would only say that more information could be expected at an upcoming council meeting.

 

Frundt provided a complaint filed on Dec. 18, 2017, by Elmore Police Chief Steve Linde.

 

According to the complaint, Ryg entered a hairstyling business in Albert Lea to talk with the owner to find out why his girlfriend was fired.

 

Ryg reportedly requested a copy of his girlfriend's personal file, but the employee told him she could not give out the information.

 

The employee says Ryg told her he was going to file a lawsuit because, “This isn't right.”

 

Ryg told the employee he was a police officer, says the complaint, and lifted up his shirt to show her his badge.

 

“Here is my badge, we will see what happens,” Ryg told her.

 

The employee says Ryg left the store and sat in his truck with his girlfriend for about seven minutes before returning.

 

According to the complaint, Ryg again requested a copy of his girlfriend's personal records. At this point, the employee says she felt concerned for her and her co-worker's safety.

 

After Ryg left the store, the employee called the Albert Lea Police Department. However, no criminal charges were filed.

 

On Dec. 11, Albert Lea police contacted the Elmore Police Department by phone and e-mailed a copy of their report.

 

In a summary by Linde, the police chief says Ryg violated at least three policy principles.

 

Attempts to contact Linde to find out if Ryg is an officer with the department and whether disciplinary action was taken were unsuccessful.

 

Judge denies motion to drop charge

February 26, 2018

 

A Faribault County judge says a Blue Earth teen must face an assault charge stemming for the allege beating of a former football teammate last October in Winnebago.

 

In a three-page omnibus order, Judge Douglas Richards denied defense attorney Michael Kircher's motion to have a charge of aiding and abetting third-degree assault against 18-year-old Dalton Nagel dismissed.

 

Richards says there's “probable cause” to believe Nagel committed the crime and to believe the crime charged in the complaint took place.

 

“It is fair and reasonable, given the facts disclosed by record, to require the defendant to stand trial,” Richards wrote.

 

At an omnibus hearing last December, Kircher argued the victim did suffer a concussion at a house party on Oct. 19 as alleged. Rather, he sustained the injury during two weeks of practice and playing in three games.

 

Kircher says nearly three weeks went by before the victim sought medical attention.

 

However, Richards says investigation reports and documents submitted by Winnebago police contradict Kircher.

 

“The Florence packet contains a medical report whereas the doctor opines that the victim suffered a concussion as a result of the October assault,” Richards wrote.

 

Richards says because no witnesses were interviewed at the December hearing, claims by the defense that conflicting statements were given to police cannot be assessed.

 

“It is the duty of the jury to determine the credibility of witnesses and to determine the facts,” says Richards.

 

Former County Attorney Troy Timmerman, who has assumed his duties as judge, has recused himself from the four cases related to the alleged assault.

 

A March 6 arraignment hearing has been scheduled for Nagel in Faribault County District Court before Martin County Judge Michael Trushenski.

 

Wyatt Tungland, 18, of Frost is slated to appear April 6 in Faribault County District Court for a contested omnibus hearing before Trushenski.

 

Tungland has been charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

Report of student with gun investigated

February 22, 2018

 

Schools nationwide have been on high alert following a shooting at a Florida high school that claimed the lives of 17 people.

 

And, Blue Earth Area (BEA) School District is not any different.

 

Faribault County Chief Deputy Scott Adams says BEA officials earlier this week received a report of a student with a gun.

 

“Someone on the school bus overheard something, so the parent contacted school officials,” he says.

 

Adams says school resource officer DJ Bullerman was contacted and authorities began interviewing students.

 

“We're very fortunate that someone came forward and said something, even though it turned out to be nothing,” he says. “It was a bad rumor, but we were able to fully investigate it.”

 

In a letter sent out to parents Thursday, Superintendent Evan Gough says high school principal Rich Schneider was told a student reportedly brought a gun into the high school building or on a school bus.

 

“Our district works closely with the Faribault County Sheriff's Office to make our schools a safe place,” says Gough. “In cooperation with our school resource officer and administration, we act on all reports of unsafe activities at our schools.”

 

Adams and Gough are asking parents to encourage their children to report anything that may seem suspicious or unsafe.

 

“Keeping our students safe at school is our top priority,” says Gough.

 

Anyone with questions may call the high school principal at (507) 526-3201; K-7 principal Melissa McGuire, (507) 526-3115; or sheriff's office, (507) 526-5148.

 

Complaint filed against part-time officer

February 14, 2018

 

The Winnebago City Council went into closed-session Tuesday night to discuss a complaint filed against a police officer and possible disciplinary action.

 

Council members, Police Chief Eric Olson, officer Colton Ryg, City Administrator Chris Ziegler and City Attorney David Frundt met behind closed doors for nearly 40 minutes.

 

Frundt says documents were reviewed and discussed, but would not say who conducted investigation of the complaint.

 

“No action was taken,” says Frundt. “The council at this time will be scheduling a subsequent hearing on the matter.”

 

Olson says Ryg has been on the force part-time for eight months, starting his employment during Bago Fun Fest last June.

 

Ryg has hired an attorney and is expected to be attending a hearing that has been tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27.

 

Council members are anticipating the next closed-session to be lengthy and have set aside at least two hours.

 

“It will take at least an hour to read through the complaint and related documents,” Frundt says.

 

Under state law, only the existence and status of a complaint against an employee can be made public. Also, officials cannot give out information regarding the nature of the complaint.

 

If the council decides to take disciplinary measures, any specific reasons and data documenting the basis for the action must be released.

 

BEA board members hire investigator

February 13, 2018

 

Blue Earth Area School District officials have given a Woodbury firm a “ blank check” in hopes of regaining the public's trust.

 

Board members unanimously voted Monday night to hire Soldo Consulting, P.C., to investigate whether district officials responded properly after learning that a football player had been allegedly assaulted by four teammates.

 

Board chairman Jesse Haugh says because some people feel that disciplinary action taken against the students was too harsh, it was felt a third party should be called in to review the district's process.

 

In a letter to Superintendent Evan Gough dated Feb. 9, Michelle Soldo says she has no knowledge of law enforcement's investigation of the alleged assault that occurred at a house party Oct. 9 in Winnebago.

 

“The review will examine the process used by the School District in its investigation of an incident following receipt of a report on Nov. 6, 2017, through Dec. 8, 2017, and the School District's compliance with the Minnesota State High School League rules and by-laws,” wrote Soldo.

 

Gough would not say if the independent review process will look into the 10-day suspension given to the four students or a decision to not allow them to participate in winter sports.

 

The district has agreed to pay Soldo an hourly rate of $145, mileage, lodging costs if necessary and any postage or copying costs.

 

Board member Sheila Ripley says she wonders why a review is needed and if it being done just to please a few who have been critical of administrators.

 

“I think as a district we need some healing,” says Ripley. “We've had a lot of unkind words said. I just hope at some time we can move forward.”

 

While the review could end up being costly, board members Sara Hauskins and Jeremy Coxworth believe it will help answer a lot of the public's questions.

 

“We're doing this for the school, administrators and staff,” says Hauskins. “So that we can show the public that everything is O.K. here in our district.”

 

Last October, the four players beat their 16-year-old teammate - a sophomore lineman - unconscious, says a criminal complaint, and took a cell phone video of the attack.

 

According to court papers, the student sustained bruising and swelling to his face as well as a concussion.

 

On Nov. 6, the victim's mother took him to a doctor where his concussions were diagnosed. While there, he told them of the beating and she reported the alleged assault to an assistant coach.

 

Police began investigating the incident on Nov. 9 after learning about it from a Faribault County sheriff's deputy who is the resource officer at the high school.

 

A week after the team's state quarterfinal loss to Pipestone on Nov. 10, police arrested the four players.

 

Three of the players were charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault, while the other faces an aiding and abetting charge.

 

All of the cases are still pending, with two of the players being prosecuted in juvenile court.

 

Parents of son assaulted moving family

January 28, 2018

 

The parents of a 16-year-old who was allegedly beaten by four former football teammates at a house party last October in Winnebago have had enough.

 

Dale and Tonya Hurley hope to be moving their family to Nebraska soon, where he has found another job.

 

“It's breaking our hearts to leave,” he says. “We've spent a lot of nights with tears in our eyes trying to figure out what to do.”

 

“I'm mad. My kids are going to have to leave, this is their home,” he adds. “This is where we planned to live and stay for a long time.”

 

Five years ago, the Hurleys moved to Blue Earth so they could be closer to her family.

 

Since the four teens have been charged with third-degree assault and/or aiding and abetting assault, Hurley says he and his son have had to deal with intimidation.

 

“It's not the whole town that's at fault. It's just a few. There are a whole lot of good people that we have built relationships with.” he says. “But, our family has been torn apart. It's been a debacle.”

 

For the Hurleys, working at their jobs has been difficult at times.

 

At one point, Tonya Hurley took a leave of absence from her job as a paraprofessional at Blue Earth Area middle school.

 

And, it hasn't been easy for Dale Hurley either. The house party where his son was allegedly assaulted took place at the home of his boss.

 

Hurley says his last day on the job will be this Wednesday and although they will be leaving the area, he's going to make sure those charged with beating his son are held responsible.

 

“We're not going to walk away from this,” he says. “We're going to see that everyone is prosecuted to the fullest of the law."

 

Genesis fund-raising efforts top $91,000

January 24, 2018

 

For the second straight year, Genesis Classical Academy (GCA) in Winnebago has exceeded a financial challenge announced last November.

 

Four donors pledged to give the school a matching grant if GCA officials could raise $35,000 during the month of December.

 

School headmaster Renee Doyle says in addition to collecting $35,000, another $21,500 was raised for a total of $91,500.

 

“The largest donation this year was $12,500 and the smallest donation was $10,” says Doyle.

 

Last year, fund-raising efforts in December earned the school a $25,000 matching grant plus other contributions totaling $33,500.

 

GCA, a non-denominational Christian school, opened its doors at Parker Oaks in 2015 with nearly 30 students in grades pre-K through 4th.

 

This year, the school has 58 students enrolled in grades pre-K through 6th and school officials plan to add a grade level each year.

 

Tuition cost for one student is $4,950; $3,950 for a second student; and $2,950 for each additional student.

 

“All 47 K-6 students will receive at least a $1,500 scholarship and additional scholarships vary greatly,” says Doyle. “We do everything possible to help parents afford a Genesis education.”

 

Police chief: Permission was given to interview

January 22, 2018

 

Blue Earth Area (BEA) School District officials and Winnebago police took it on the chin at the last board meeting.

 

John Schavey, a 1989 graduate, criticized BEA administrators for allowing police to interview students at the high school regarding an alleged assault of a football player last October by four teammates.

 

Schavey also questioned school officials why they were also conducting their own investigation.

 

How do you think the day went for the kids in the building, wondering if they were going to be called down to the office by administrators or police,” Schavey asked the board.

 

“This is not fostering a learning environment and has been a huge distraction to the kids in the building,” he adds.

 

But, Police Chief Eric Olson says his department has guidelines they follow when juveniles are involved in any type of case.

 

“Parents were notified and allowed to be present before interviewing any juvenile,” he says. “If parents are not present, they have consented to us talking with the juvenile.”

 

Superintendent Evan Gough did not respond to requests to comment on whether district officials conducted their own investigation. And, if they did, what was the reason for doing so.

 

The four students charged with assault and aiding and abetting assault were suspended from school for 10 days and are not being allowed to participate or practice in sports.

 

One of the teens has transferred to the Maple River School District, while another reportedly has moved to Des Moines.

 

Meanwhile, Olson says investigation of the alleged assault that occurred on Oct. 19 at a house party in Winnebago remains on-going.

 

We are still working hard to gather all the facts of this case,” Olson says.

 

Police started looking into the incident after being contacted on Nov. 9 by the school district's resource officer DJ Bullerman about an assault that had occurred in the city.

 

County hires attorney for privacy lawsuit

January 19, 2018

 

Faribault County commissioners have hired a Twin Cities attorney to represent the county's interest in a data privacy lawsuit.

 

Employment attorney Susan Hansen of Minneapolis will start earning her $170 an hour fee during a scheduling conference hearing set for Feb. 20 in Blue Earth.

 

“I will not be involved,” says County Attorney Troy Timmerman. “Once I am sworn in as judge, my role as an attorney is over for any case.”

 

It's not the first time the county had turned to Hansen for her expertise. She was paid nearly $43,000 for her work when an arbitrator upheld the firing of a former deputy.

 

Timmerman and the county have been named as defendants in the case involving former Veterans Services Office head officer David Hanson, who resigned last August.

 

Hanson stepped down while an investigation of a complaint filed against the 24-year county employee was being conducted.

 

In court papers, Hanson's attorney argues the U.S and Minnesota constitutions and the state's Data Practices Act prevent any investigation findings from being made public.

 

“To prevent unnecessary and irreparable harm to himself and his career resulting from defendant's contemplated disclosure of intensely personal and professional employment information,” wrote Jeffrey Schiek.

 

Investigation of the complaint was stopped when Hanson resigned and agreed to a separation agreement that paid him more than $36,000.

 

At the time, Timmerman said that release of any findings was not necessary because Hanson agreed to resign.

 

But, Tripleanews.com cited the state's Data Practices law to have investigation results that cost taxpayers more than $6,300 be made public.

 

When Timmerman identified documents that could be released, Schiek filed court papers on Dec. 15 to prevent it.

 

School district officials taken to task

January 10, 2018

 

The aftermath of four Blue Earth Area football players charged in the alleged assault of a teammate at a house party last October in Winnebago continues.

 

At Monday's meeting, School Board members sat and listened as some residents accused district officials of being unfair and too tough for taking disciplinary action for an incident that didn't occur at school.

 

Others spoke of how the spirit of Buc Pride has been broken and its impact on the communities within the district.

 

In November, Wyatt Tungland, Blake Barnett and Caden Ochsendorf appeared in Faribault County District Court to face third-degree assault and aiding and abetting charges. Dalton Nagel was charged with aiding and abetting.

 

School officials later imposed a 10-day suspension for each boy, made them ineligible to play or practice in sports or be involved in leadership roles at school.

 

Naomi Ochsendorf sobbed as she addressed board members and spoke on the impact the incident has had on their family.

 

Ochsendorf says her son was given certain expectations he would have to meet if he wanted to return to school.

 

The district's conditions for re-admission, says Ochsendorf, “would put a target on his back.”

 

So, she and her husband decided to transfer him and his younger brother to the Maple River School District.

 

“All it would take is a teacher or student to make an allegation that he participated in any of the outlined expectations,” she says. “We felt the risk of being expelled was too great for him to continue in the school system.”

 

Ochsendorf's son was to not be involved in any kind of violence, retaliation or conduct that would endanger students or the rights of others.

 

Renee Nagel says district officials have acted as judge and jury for an incident not related to school.

 

She says her son was a member of the student council, president of FAA and a captain of the wrestling team before becoming ineligible.

 

“These boys have not been proven guilty of anything in a court of law,” she says. “Why are they being proved guilty at school?”

 

Shawn Ehrich, a 1991 BEA grad, says penalties imposed by the district are excessive and not based on facts, only allegations.

 

Ehrich says the four teens have paid the price by spending three days in jail, being suspended from school for 10 days and having their names and faces all over the media.

 

“We are here to support one another, so lets make a change now and bring back our boys. They've served more than enough time, let's make this right and fair at once,” he says.

 

Former school principal and Blue Earth City Council member John Huisman says two weeks after speaking at a previous board meeting about bullying, a board member confronted him.

 

Huisman says he has heard of two other instances in which community members have been discouraged not to speak at board meetings.

 

“I just think that as board members and administration you need to be encouraging citizens to come forward and speak, not discouraging them,” he says.

 

John Schavey called on school administrators to rescind any punishment being taken against the four teens.

 

“How do I support a district who has already made these boys guilty before a court decision is made?” he asked the board. “The administration needs to think about defending the innocent and clearing their name.”

 

Board members went into separate closed-sessions with the Nagel family and Naomi Ochsendorf that last more than one hour with the districts attorney Michelle Kenney.

 

Kenney says because the issue pertains to “private educational data,” what was discussed cannot be made public.

 

Former employee fighting data release

December 23, 2017

 

A data request by Tripleanews.com involving an investigation costing taxpayers $6,334 has landed the County Attorney's Office in Faribault County District Court.

 

Several weeks ago, Tripleanews.com asked County Attorney Troy Timmerman to decide if findings involving a complaint filed against former Veterans Services Office head officer David Hanson could be made public.

 

Timmerman says documents responsive to the request have been identified.

 

“However, I have been served with legal process seeking to enjoin me from releasing the data,” he says. “When the court rules, the county will comply with the ruling.”

 

Hanson's attorney, Jeffrey Schiek of Bloomington, filed court papers on Dec. 15.

 

In the court documents, Timmerman also is listed as a defendant and hearing the case will be Judge Douglas Richards.

 

Timmerman in the past has said the investigation was stopped when Hanson resigned and agreed to a separation agreement that paid him more than $36,000.

 

Because Hanson submitted his resignation before the investigation was completed, Timmerman said that release of any findings was not necessary.

 

However, under the state's Data Practices law:

 

“If a public official resigns or is terminated from employment while the complaint or charge is pending, all data relating to the complaint or charge are public, unless access to the data would jeopardize an active investigation or reveal confidential sources.”

 

In a county with a population of more than 5,000, a “public official” is defined as a managers, chiefs, heads or directors of departments, divisions, bureaus, or boards, and any equivalent positions.

 

 

Teens appear in court

December 19, 2017

 

Two teens charged in the assault of a former Blue Earth Area football teammate had their day in Faribault County District Court on Monday.

 

Prior to the start of a scheduled 9 a.m. hearing for 18-year-old Dalton Nagel – charged with aiding and abetting third-degree assault -- his attorney Michael Kircher and prosecutor Graham Berg-Moberg met for more than 10 minutes with Judge Douglas Richards in his chambers.

 

“No plea bargain was offered,” says Berg-Moberg. “It was just to discuss how to proceed with the police reports, witness statements and all the discovery documents. It's enormous.”

 

During the hearing, Kircher told the judge there is no evidence that supports the charges against his client.

 

Kircher says there are lots of statements from witnesses at the Oct. 18 house party in Winnebago where the alleged assault occurred that contradict a police officer's investigation of the incident.

 

“The officer drew his own conclusions from the statements,” he says.

 

According to Kircher, witnesses at the party say the alleged victim arrived with teammates either intoxicated or left the party and came back intoxicated.

 

Kircher says witness statements indicate the victim was loud, obnoxious, threw up on himself, took off his clothes and eventually passed out.

 

Teammates attempted to hold the victim from running outside and being loud, says Kircher, and it was at that time he was struck.

 

Kircher argues there is nothing in statements that indicate the victim was held down and beaten as the police report says.

 

It's clear there's nothing in any of the information that indicates this young man lost consciousness and that a reasonable person would believe he lost consciousness after being struck,” he says.

 

Kircher says teammates reportedly gave the boy a ride home and while in the back seat he took a selfie with the caption, “I'm still hammered.” He says no bruises or injuries were evident in the photo.

 

Following the alleged assault, the victim attended football practice and played in two football games before seeking medical attention on Nov. 6.

 

While a doctor did diagnose the victim had a concussion, Kircher argues he sustained it during a game he played on Oct. 28.

 

“He told teammates he was hit so hard that his helmet cracked and broke,” says Kircher. “And, he didn't report it to anybody.”

 

Kircher says based on the evidence it is “unfair and unreasonable” for his client to stand trial.

 

Berg-Moberg says the state has evidence that shows the victim sustained substantial bodily harm while at the house party.

 

He (Kircher) may wish the doctor did not diagnose a concussion,” he says. “It is an issue for a trial and jury to decide. At the end of the end, the defense motion should be denied.”

 

Richards will review police reports, interviews, medical reports and other evidence before issuing a ruling which could take several weeks.

 

In a hearing held Monday afternoon, 18-year-old Wyatt Tungland made his first court appearance on charges of third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

His attorney Chris Ritts requested a contested omnibus hearing and waived the requirement that it be held within the next 28 days.

 

Ritts says he is waiting for cell phone information that he being processed by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

 

Berg-Moberg says the state was expected to turn over the information by the end of the day.

 

Richards says a two-hour hearing will be scheduled, but the date has yet to be determined.

 

Closed-session more than just a job evaluation?

December 18, 2017

 

Did the last four minutes of a closed-session of the Blue Earth Area School Board violate the state's Open Meeting Law?

 

“None whatsoever. The lawyer ruled on it,” says Board chair Frankie Bly. “She called me personally and said you're just fine.”

 

But, board member Jeremy Coxworth doesn't see it that way.

 

At the last board meeting, Coxworth says discussion of Southern Plains Education Cooperative was allowed after Superintendent Evan Gough's job performance review was over.

 

At issue is whether the closed-session was used as a way to discuss the future of Southern Plains in Winnebago or the possibility of it moving to another city.

 

During the meeting, Coxworth referenced a November e-mail from board member Jesse Haugh that indicated Southern Plains could be moving to Blue Earth.

 

Coxworth says Haugh was asked at the end of Gough's evaluation if Southern Plains could be discussed.

 

“When Jesse says “no” but we're going to anyway, that makes me question it,” he says.

 

According to a November meeting agenda, the superintendent's evaluation was the only item listed for a closed-session.

 

The state's Open Meeting Law says, “Before closing a meeting, a public body shall state on the record specific grounds permitting the meeting to be closed and describe the subject to be discussed.”

 

Although Haugh gave a summary of Gough's evaluation, which is required by law, there was no mention of the Southern Plains discussion.

 

Bly says Gough's review looked at his communication of issues to the board and Southern Plains was among those.

 

“It was totally open, legitimate and legal,” says Bly. “It was part of the criticism that board members had of him.”

 

Southern Plains director Sarah Mittlestadt in the past has said this could be the last year the alternative learning center is housed at the Winnebago school.

 

Mittlestadt says “significant deferred maintenance” issues must be addressed or the cooperative will need to find an alternative location.

 

When BEA officials decided to close the Winnebago Elementary school, one reason given was “deferred maintenance” costs needed over a 10-year period totaling at least $5 million.

 

Southern Plains has K-12 students from the school districts of Blue Earth Area; Fairmont Area; Martin County West; Granada-Huntley-East Chain; Truman; and United South Central.

 

Board listens, approves contract for Supt. Gough

December 15, 2017

 

Before approving a new three-year contract for the district's superintendent, Blue Earth Area (BEA) School Board members got an earful during at their meeting held Monday night.

 

A large crowd forced the board to hold the “public input” portion of the meeting in the middle school gymnasium. Again, the topic of bullying took center stage.

 

Those in attendance demanded something needs to be done or school administrators who are in charge should be fired.

 

“Do you believe the administration has enough credibility to act on this or anything else?” Larry Anderson asked board members.

 

Dale Hurley, whose son was assaulted by four BEA football teammates, says he and others are being intimidated for speaking out.

 

“We need change and I want answers,” he says. “I am calling on you guys to figure out this problem.”

 

Randal Anderson has been a substitute teacher in the district and says administrators must look at what he calls “ a toothless disciplinary structure” that doesn't discourage disruptive behavior in the classroom.

 

John Huisman, a Blue Earth City Council member and former principal in the district, says he doesn't know why administrators decided to let the four students return to school.

 

I am hear to talk about student safety,” he says. “When I learned these students were allowed back in the building, that really concerned me.”

 

Huisman says he is aware the district is obligated to educate the four students, however, the judge did not specify how that should be done. He says there are alternatives, such as, home bound instruction.

 

“There are times when the school district and School Board needs to take the bull by the horns and do something,” he adds.

 

District officials did get some support and a vote of confidence from high school science teacher Julie Ackerman.

 

“I am astounded at what is being said tonight,” she says. “I am proud of our school. I am proud of our students and administrators. I have never worked under a principal who is so dedicated to his job.”

 

“He handles things by the book and by the law. I have no fears of my children going to school here,” she adds.

 

After residents had their say, board members returned to the district office meeting room to resume the meeting.

 

Board member Jesse Haugh read a summary of a positive job performance evaluation for Superintendent Evan Gough before taking a vote on his new contract.

 

“I don't think it's a good summary,” says board member Jeremy Coxworth. “I don't disagree with any of it. But, we just didn't talk about Evan's evaluation.”

 

Sara Hauskins recommended the board give Gough a one-year deal because of a letter given to the board outlining five changes that needed to be made.

 

She says that information was provided following Gough's evaluation behind closed doors on Nov. 20 and was not made available to her.

 

“Our community is speaking out loud and clear through news outlets, e-mails and personal contact,” she says. “The school is not providing the best learning environment.”

 

On a 4-3 vote, with Hauskins, Coxworth and Amber Patten voting against, board members approved a three-year contract for Gough.

 

He is currently earning $126,814 a year and would see 2 percent annual pay increases beginning the 2018-19 school year.

 

Parker Oaks to get million-dollar project

December 14, 2017

 

Officials of a non-profit corporation are calling it a “substantial expansion” project at Parker Oaks in Winnebago.

 

Patrick Rafferty, John Dettloff and Mike Trossen of Heartland Senior Living updated City Council members Monday night on a $3 million, 16,000 square-foot addition set for next year.

 

“We are hoping to take public bids in January and begin work late spring or summer,” says Trossen, architect for the project.

 

Trossen says the 12 assisted-living units will all be on one level and built on the west side of the current facility. He says the new addition also will provide offices for administration and staff as well as space for the community to hold events.

 

Heartland Rural Services was approved for two loans totaling $15 million from the USDA last August. Of that amount, $7 million was used to buy Parker Oaks, Truman Senior Living in Truman and Parkview Care Center in Wells from ElderCare of Minnesota.

 

Dettloff, a consultant and facilitator for Heartland, says sale of the three facilities is expected to be finalized by Dec. 20.

 

“The puzzle pieces are being put in place,” he says. “Some people have worked very hard on this.”

 

In addition to the Winnebago project, Heartland plans to purchase land in Wells to construct a $3 million facility and do $1 million in remodeling at Truman.

 

Rafferty, who oversees operations at the three care centers, says Parker Oaks will have, “a great opportunity for new and ever-changing senior care.”

 

Dettloff asked council members if the city might be able to provide any financial assistance, such as a Tax-Increment-Funding (TIF) district or an Economic Development Authority (EDA) loan.

 

Continued community support and “local control,” says Dettloff, are important for the future success of Parker Oaks.

 

Heartland officials asked the council for a letter of support to show lenders that local residents are backing their efforts.

 

“It's an important piece to give some type of thumbs up so we can move on,” Dettloff says. “This facility has an opportunity to prosper and grow.”

 

Trossen says the project will not have a negative impact on the Genesis Classical Academy.

 

He assured Councilman Scott Robertson, one of the school's founders, that the Parker Oaks site plenty of space if they also decide to expand.

 

Police investigate assault

December 8, 2017

 

Local authorities are investigating an alleged assault last August that may have involved one of the teens recently charged in the beating of a Blue Earth Area football player.

 

Deb Schaffer, who now lives in Colorado, tells Tripleanews.com her 18-year-old son Shawn Kane was given a ride to Steinberg Park along Highway 16 in Blue Earth.

 

“He was lured there,” says Schaffer. “There were two other persons there and he was beaten.”

 

The incident occurred on Aug. 29, says Schaffer, and it was video-taped with a cell phone and posted on Facebook.

 

Blue Earth Police Chief Tom Fletcher says his department was recently made aware of the incident.

 

“The assault was the result of one boy beating up on another boy,” he says. “The suspect was a juvenile at the time of the assault. We are investigating the incident and charges are expected.”

 

Schaffer says she and her son moved to Colorado when he was 14 years old because students at school would bully and pick on him because of his learning disability.

 

“The bullying was affecting his twin sister and I had to get him out of here,” she says. “For years he was beaten and bullied but no one ever did anything. School officials would just ignore us.”

 

The Schaffers moved back to Blue Earth in 2016 because the boy's father was involved in a car accident.

 

The boy tried to enroll at BEA High School, she says, but was placed at the Southern Plains alternative school in Winnebago.

 

According to Schaffer, her son was beaten at a party in Fairmont three days prior to the alleged assault in Blue Earth.

 

Fairmont police were contacted days following the beating, however, Schaffer says they convinced her not to press charges because Shawn could also get in trouble.

 

Schaffer says she saw a small portion of the Aug. 29 video and people on Facebook were asking if anyone who knew the boy being beaten should come forward.

 

She received a copy of the four-minute recording and realized it was her son. It was turned over to local police.

 

“It's cut and dry,” she says. “My son didn't do anything, but nothing has been done.”

 

Someone is going to get killed if something isn't done,” she adds.

 

Coaches cancel banquet

December 5, 2017

 

The Blue Earth Area football team did not hold its postseason awards banquet.

 

Coaching staff sent a Nov. 28 letter to players and their parents telling them of their decision to call off the annual celebration.

 

“We had a lot of positives happen this season and players that deserve recognition,” the coaching staff wrote.

 

“But due to the extenuating circumstances at the end of the season, we will not be having our traditional banquet.”

 

Instead, coaches held a pizza party for the players Sunday in the Commons at the high school, the day the banquet had been scheduled.

 

With the investigation of the alleged beating “still ongoing,” the coaches wrote, “we don't want to put anyone in an uncomfortable position.”

 

The Bucs finished with a 7-5 record and qualified for the Class AA state playoffs.

 

A week after the team's state quarterfinal loss to Pipestone on Nov. 10, police arrested four players who allegedly beat a teammate unconscious at a house party on Oct. 19 in Winnebago.

 

On Nov. 20, all were charged with felonies ranging from third-degree assault and aiding and abetting.

 

Police began investigating the incident on Nov. 9 after learning about it from a Faribault County sheriff's deputy who is the resource officer at the high school.

 

The four players beat their 16-year-old teammate - a sophomore lineman - unconscious, says a criminal complaint, and took a cell phone video of the attack.

 

The complaint says one of the players showed it to him the next day.

 

Dale Hurley, the victim's father, says the alleged attackers also showed the video to other teammates in the locker room.

 

Hurley says the players knew what happened, but his son covered up his injuries because he did not want to get his teammates in trouble.

 

The boy told his parents his swollen face and a black eye was the result of a friendly wrestling match that got carried away and a little rough.

 

When the boy suffered headaches and began vomiting, he told his parents he had the flu. He continued to go to football practice and played in two of the playoff games.

 

On Nov. 6 the victim's mother, Tonya Hurley, took him to a doctor where his concussions were diagnosed.

 

While there, he told them of the beating and she reported the alleged assault to an assistant coach.

 

Hurley's son did not play against Pipestone, however, the players who allegedly assaulted him did.

 

Dale Hurley says his son went back to school on Monday and still suffers from the effects of the concussions.

 

“My son is not going to be victimized anymore,” he says. “They should be the ones to go to a different school. And, I'm going to to everything I can to keep them from returning to school.”

 

Hurley says he's feel bad for the deserving players who didn't get a chance to celebrate their season with friends and family.

 

I don't believe it's fair or right that all had to suffer because of a few players,” he says. “Everyone one of those seniors lost their banquet and were robbed of their rights.”

 

Meanwhile, two of the players appeared in Faribault County District Court on Monday.

 

Blake Barnett, 17, pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault.

 

Barnett, who has moved with his family to Des Moines, is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 3 for a pre-trial hearing.

 

Caden Ochsendorf, 16, of Winnebago, also appeared in court on Monday, but state law required his hearing be closed to the public because he was 15 at the time of the alleged attack. He is also charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting.

 

Two other teammates will have court appearance later this month.

 

Wyatt Tungland, 18, of Frost, is charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting third-degree assault. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance on Dec. 18.

 

Dalton Nagel, 18, of Blue Earth is charged with third-degree aiding and abetting. He has an omnibus hearing set for Dec. 18.

 

Heated discussion results in two being charged

November 28, 2017

 

Discussion of a zoning ordinance during a township board meeting at times became heated and at one point a deputy had to escort someone out.

 

As a result, more than a year later two men faces charges and were scheduled to appear in Faribault County District Court this week.

 

Verona Township supervisor Darwin Olson, 63, and Robert Eugene Kesselring Jr. , 50, were charged with disorderly conduct.

 

Olson waived his right to an arraignment hearing, while Kesselring made his first court appearance.

 

According to a court complaint, Chief Deputy Scott Adams provided security at a township meeting held Oct. 3, 2016, in Huntley.

 

Discussion during the meeting dealt with the adverse effects of livestock operations like hog feedlot facilities.

 

A day after the meeting, Adams reportedly contacted deputy Mark Purvis about an incident which occurred.

 

Kesselring, who was alleged to be the victim, told Purvis that during the meeting Olson approached him about some accusations he had made.

 

The complaint says Kesselring asked Olson if they could speak in private, so they stepped outside.

 

Olson was upset and jumpy, says the complaint, and reportedly took his finger and pushed it into Kesselring's chest.

 

When Purvis interviewed Olson he said the conversation took place and that Kesselring was, “in his face.”

 

Olson says admitted to poking Kesselring in the shoulder with his finger.

 

Kesselring told the deputy he was talking loudly to Olson because he is hard of hearing.

 

Board member Neal Mensing told Purvis that Kesselring was being very vocal about the ordinance and that the two men, “got into it” outside of the meeting.

 

Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

Teen charged in assault hires attorney

November 23, 2017

 

One of four Blue Earth Area High School students charged in the assault of a football teammate has retained a Minneapolis attorney.

 

On Monday, 18-year-old Wyatt Eugene Tungland of Frost was charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting assault in Faribault County District Court.

 

Tungland also qualified for a public defender and was appointed Bill Grogin of the Martin/Faribault County Public Defender's Office in Fairmont.

 

Grogin says he learned on Friday that Chris Ritts has been hired to handle Tungland's case.

 

Tungland was scheduled to appear in court on Monday but that initial appearance has been rescheduled to Dec. 18.

 

Ritts says he filed for a continuance because of scheduling conflicts with his other cases.

 

“We are going to fight this vigorously,” he says. “As you can see with the complaint, it contradicts itself at least three times as to my client's involvement.”

 

According to a court complaint, a witness says he saw Tungland punch the victim while the other three teens held him down.

 

The alleged attack took place at a house party held Oct. 19 in Winnebago.

 

The victim reportedly had swelling and bruising on his face and suffered a concussion.

 

Ritts says it “looks very suspicious” why the case wasn't reported until near the end of the football season.

 

“I've never seen a person get picked up three weeks later after a charge like this,” he says. “It's outrageous.”

 

On Nov. 9, the Blue Earth Area School resource officer contacted Winnebago police and reported an assault may have occurred in Winnebago in October.

 

Tungland and the other teens were allowed to play in the team's Class AA state quarterfinal loss to Pipestone on Nov. 10 and all were arrested the following week.

 

Ritts questions the credibility of the allegations because the complaint is “incomplete and unprofessional.”

 

Board asked to stop bullying problem

November 21, 2017

 

A Blue Earth Area student and football player allegedly assaulted by four teammates forced the School Board to hold its monthly meeting in the middle school gymnasium on Monday night.

 

Filled to a standing room only crowd, board members heard more than a dozen stories of bullying from angry and frustrated persons calling for something to be done.

 

Dale Hurley, father of the victim, says students, teachers, principals and district officials must change because, “everybody is getting bullied and I believe it's being covered up.”

 

“He's (my son) scared to go to school,” says Hurley. “His friends are scared to tell what happened to him and have been hiding it for several weeks.”

 

Carla Cardona says her daughter is teased because of her weight and race and her husband Juan says parents of bullied students are told they should move to another district.

 

“Anybody who says that I think should be fired,” Juan told board members.

 

Randy Olson says all of his three children and two stepchildren have had to deal with bullies.

 

Olson says he's heard of a student who is diabetic being punched in the throat.

 

I'm getting sick and tired of this and I'm frustrated a lot with this,” says Olson. “I'm not going to stand for it. None of us are going to stand by anymore.”

 

Others told the board they believe some students who bully, like athletes, receive special treatment and nothing is ever done to them.

 

Those who spoke said that teachers, principals and district officials must be held accountable.

 

Board chair Frankie Bly told the crowd board members would not make any comments because the allege assault is still under investigation.

 

“We need to take a serious look at how we deal with our children and set examples,” says Bly. “We will take your comments under advisement and will make some changes.”

 

Bly says he's disappointed to hear of all the bullying that appears to be going on.

 

“I taught in the district for 30 years and it wasn't happening when I retired in '99,” he says.

 

Hurley vowed to attend School Board meetings until districts officials address the problem.

 

“I am never going to quit until we get a solution. My son is not going to hide anymore,” he says.

 

Four charged in assault, probe continues

November 20, 2017

 

Four Blue Earth Area High School students who were football players face felony charges in an alleged assault of a teammate during a house party last month in Winnebago.

 

On Monday in Faribault County District Court, 18-year-old Wyatt Eugene Tungland of Frost was charged with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting assault.

 

Dalton Lee Nagel, 18, of Blue Earth was charged with aiding and abetting assault, while 17-year-old Blake Joseph Barnett of Blue Earth and 16-year-old Caden Ochsendorf of Winnebago were charged in juvenile court with third-degree assault and aiding and abetting assault.

 

Police Chief Eric Olson says investigation of the alleged assault continues and he's still asking anyone who may have information to come forward.

 

Olson called the case “very complex” and could eventually involve looking into why it took school district officials three weeks to report the assault.

 

“The investigation will take us where it leads us. The door is open and isn't closed,” says Olson. “But, right now I'm dealing with the assault and we need to get that part of the case taken care of first.”

 

Winnebago police were contacted by Blue Earth Area resource officer DJ Bullerman on Nov. 9 that an assault may have occurred in the city in October.

 

Court criminal complaints say earlier this month the teen victim told police he was punched and pushed and lost consciousness while at the party on Oct. 19.

 

The next day Barnett showed the teen a cell phone video, says the complaint, of Barnett and Ochsendorf hitting him.

 

Ochsendorf reportedly told police he and the other defendants hit the victim, pushed him back down when he tried to get up and struck him again.

 

A witness says he saw Tungland punching the teen while the other three held him down.

 

The victim had swelling and bruising on his face, says the complaint, and suffered a concussion.

 

Has scope of assault probe widened?

November 19, 2017

 

Authorities are not saying whether the arrest of two Blue Earth Area High School students was in connection with an assault that occurred in Winnebago on Oct. 18.

 

On Saturday, Police Chief Eric Olson said the two 18-year-old males were being held at the Faribault County Jail. Also apprehended was a 16-year-old male.

 

Olson would not release the names of the adult males, saying investigation of the incident is still on-going.

 

According to the jail's website, Dalton Lee Nagel was arrested Friday and booked at 9:27 p.m. and Wyatt Eugene Tungland was taken into custody and booked 11:40 p.m.

 

Both are facing a pending felony charge of third-degree assault, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000.

 

To be convicted of the charge, a person must have caused “substantial bodily harm” that usually means a serious injury such as a broken bone or semi-permanent injury.

 

In his first statement on investigating the assault, Olson said, “We would like to assure the Winnebago community and parents of Blue Earth Area School District that it is our number one priority to solve this case.”

 

Winnebago police received a tip from Blue Earth Area resource officer DJ Bullerman on Nov. 9 that an assault may have occurred in the city.

 

In addition to the allege assault, has the investigation taken authorities in another direction?

 

Nagel and Tungland were both members of the Buc football team that ended its season with a State tournament quarter-final loss on Nov. 10.

 

Could authorities be trying to determine when BEA school officials first became aware of the assault? Because, it is still unclear when districts officials knew about the incident.

 

The football team played a game on Wednesday, Oct. 18, because of the two-day MEA break beginning the next day.

 

Three arrested in Winnebago assault

November 18, 2017

 

Winnebago police have made a break-through in an investigation of an assault that was reported by the Blue Earth Area School District resource officer.

 

Police Chief Eric Olson says several witnesses in connection with an assault that occurred Oct. 18 in Winnebago have been interviewed.

 

As a result, Olson says two 18-year-old males and a 16-year-old juvenile male have been arrested.

 

“Because it is still an on-going investigation, the names of the adults will not be released right now,” says Olson. “We don't want to jeopardize what we're doing.”

 

The police chief says little information is being made public on the advice of Faribault County Attorney Troy Timmerman.

 

The two adult males, says Olson, are being held at the county jail and charges are pending.

 

Police received a tip from resource officer DJ Bullerman on Nov. 9 of a possible assault in the city that may have been video-taped.

 

Olson says officers will be working on the case throughout the weekend and there could be new developments next week.

 

Police seek public's help in assault case

November 17, 2017

 

Winnebago police are seeking the public's help in solving an assault involving juveniles that may have been video-taped.

 

Police Chief Eric Olson says Blue Earth Area High School resource officer DJ Bullerman contacted his department on Nov. 9 about the assault that may have occurred in Winnebago.

 

In a news release, Olson says an investigation is being conducted and no other information is being released at this time.

 

“We have received information that a video may be out there,” Olson says in the news release. “We encourage anyone that may have this video to come forward.”

 

Attempts to contact Olson to ask when and where the assault occurred and if anyone was seriously injured were not successful.

 

Olson says officers in his department are working hard at gathering facts about the case.

 

“We would like to assure the Winnebago community and parents of Blue Earth Area School District that it is our number one priority to solve this case,” he says.

 

Persons having any information should contact the police department by calling (507) 893-3218.

 

FCDC ceases to exist, so what's next?

November 17, 2017

 

Now that the Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC) has dissolved, the board of directors will have to decide what to do with any remaining assets.

 

Reasons as to why the private, non-profit development group suddenly folded have not been made public.

 

Tripleanews.com has reached out to Mike Gustafson, FCDC board chairman, and has not received a response.

 

So what was the financial condition of FCDC before officials decided to cease operations?

 

County commissioner Bill Groskreutz says he has no idea.

 

“It's a private group,” says Groskreutz. “They can keep their books closed.”

 

According to a website of an agency that monitors non-profit organizations, the last 990-EZ form filed with the IRS for 2015 shows FCDC had net assets totaling $168,928. Of that amount, $157,161 was listed as cash, savings and investments.

 

On the 990-EZ tax form FCDC is classified as a 501c3 organization and that could benefit the local area.

 

Phil Duran, incorporation service manager for Propel Non-profits in Minneapolis, says the IRS has certain requirements to follow.

 

Duran says any remaining assets must be distributed to one or more other 501c3 organizations or government entities.

 

“The IRS would not typically allow remaining assets to be distributed to its members, unless those members were themselves other 501c3 groups or government entities,” he adds.

 

Duran says if there are any remaining funds that are restricted, they may only be used for purposes specified by the original donor or grantor.

 

FCDC pulls the plug on county, cities

November 15, 2017

 

Despite receiving more than $100,000 in public funding, city and county leaders are wondering why a private, non-profit development corporation has dissolved.

 

“It surprised me, yes. I was very, very surprised,” says Faribault County Commissioner Bill Groskreutz. “We haven't gotten any written notification of this or a reason from the board of directors.”

 

On Monday night, membership of the Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC) voted unanimously to cease operations.

 

Commissioner John Roper, who decided not to renew his FCDC membership this year, says he had heard “some rumblings around town” that the development group might fold.

 

Roper says contracts FCDC has with the county, Blue Earth and Wells to provide services are set to expire at the end of this year.

 

“I know the Blue Earth EDA was unhappy with FCDC,” says Roper. “I didn't realize they would disband.”

 

Groskreutz and Roper serve on the county's Economic Development Authority board and acted as a contact with the development group.

 

Because the commissioners are not members of FCDC, they were not invited when the vote was taken Monday.

 

“I don't know how the corporation works,” says Groskreutz. “I guess they handled it the way they wanted to.”

 

For the past several years, the county and Blue Earth have given FCDC $50,000 a year to assist in economic development projects. Recently, the city of Wells decided to pay $25,000 a year for services.

 

Local officials aren't wasting any time in trying to find a replacement for FCDC.

 

Groskreutz says Blue Earth City Administrator Tim Ibisch has arranged a presentation on Thursday by officials of Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA).

 

According to its website, CEDA was founded in 1986 and is based in Chatfield. It serves communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

 

Timmerman to review, release results

November 13, 2017

 

At the request of Tripleanews.com, Faribault County's chief prosecutor will decide what investigation results to release involving a former Veterans Services Office (VSO) employee.

 

But, it's not clear how much information will actually be unveiled.

 

“I will obtain the materials and review to determine what information is private, public or confidential,” says County Attorney Troy Timmerman. “I will provide you with the public material.”

 

County commissioners agreed to hire Soldo Consulting, P.C., of Woodbury and look into a complaint filed against VSO officer David Hanson.

 

Information as to the nature of the complaint, when and who filed it has never been made public.

 

Timmerman says he expects to receive material for Soldo Consulting later this week.

 

“I don't know how long it will take to review, because I do not know how much material there will be,” he says.

 

The county had paid the Soldo Consulting $6,334 when the investigation was halted due to Hanson's resignation and a separation agreement that paid him more than $36,000.

 

Timmerman in the past has implied that because Hanson resigned, any partial findings do not have to be made public.

 

However, a portion of the state's Data Practices law brought to Timmerman's attention says differently.

 

Under the law, “If a public official resigns or is terminated from employment while the complaint or charge is pending, all data relating to the complaint or charge are public, unless access to the data would jeopardize an active investigation or reveal confidential sources.”

 

Also, a public official in a county with a population of more than 5,000 is defined as managers, chiefs, heads or directors of departments, divisions, bureaus, or boards, and any equivalent positions.

 

Atlanta gives Green Energy a thumbs up

November 10, 2017

 

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

 

That's an adage Winnebago businessman Bob Weerts lives by.

 

It was more than three years ago when Faribault and Martin County commissioners rejected Weerts' idea to purchase the Prairieland compost facility in Truman.

 

On Monday, Weerts got some good news when the Atlanta City Council voted 14-0 to hire his company, Green Energy and Development Inc., to build a recycling and compost facility at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world's busiest airport.

 

“I'm waiting for the contract from the city so I can sign the papers and get going,” says Weerts. “It's a huge, huge project … made possible by a company in little Winnebago.”

 

Weerts, president and owner/operator of Green Energy, says the project has been in the works for a long time.

 

His company was among six vying for the 30-acre project located on the south side of the airport in Clayton County.

 

“I want to get going on it,” he says. “I've been trying to get this off the ground for two years.”

 

Under the contract, Green Energy has a 30-year lease with two five-year renewal options and will pay up to $215,883 a year in rent.

 

It's expected to be the first fully enclosed recycling and composting facility at an airport and is anticipated to be operating in early 2019.

 

“We're getting all the drawings done now,” says Weerts. “I got a lot of people working on this who know what they're doing.”

 

The project is part of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's initiative to make the airport environmentally friendly.

 

Since 2012, only about 5 percent of waste generated at the airport's terminals and concourses has been recycled, even though 85 percent of the waste stream is recyclable or compostable.

 

In addition to recycling waste generated at the airport, officials want to compost chipped yard trimmings from the city's public works department.

 

Will investigation results be released?

November 3, 2017

 

Faribault County taxpayers may get a chance to see results of an investigation that cost $6,334.

 

Tripleanews.com has asked County Attorney Troy Timmerman to decide if partial findings involving a complaint against former Veterans Services Office head officer David Hanson can be made public.

 

Timmerman has not responded to Tripleanews.com's request that was made more than three weeks ago.

 

In the past, Timmerman has said the investigation was stopped when Hanson resigned and agreed to a separation agreement that paid him more than $36,000.

 

Because Hanson submitted his resignation before the investigation was completed, Timmerman has implied that release of any findings is not necessary.

 

However, under the state's Data Practices law:

 

“If a public official resigns or is terminated from employment while the complaint or charge is pending, all data relating to the complaint or charge are public, unless access to the data would jeopardize an active investigation or reveal confidential sources.”

 

In a county with a population of more than 5,000, a “public official” is defined as managers, chiefs, heads or directors of departments, divisions, bureaus, or boards, and any equivalent positions.

 

Green Energy chosen for Atlanta project

October 24, 2017

 

A Winnebago company has been picked to develop a recycling and composting facility at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta.

 

Green Energy and Development Inc. was one of six firms to compete for the contract.

 

Bob Weerts, president and owner/operator of Green Energy, says the project has been in the works for a long time and that he's bid on it three different times.

 

“I'm excited, but cautiously optimistic,” says Weerts. “It isn't final until the council approves it. I've been there before.”

 

Weerts says airport officials will ask the Atlanta City Council on Nov. 6 to approve a 30-year lease with Green Energy, with two five-year renewal options.

 

The 30-acre project is part of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's initiative to make Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport environmentally friendly.

 

It's expected to be the first fully enclosed recycling and composting facility at an airport and is anticipated to be operating in early 2019.

 

Under the contract, Green Energy would pay up to $215,883 a year in rent for the site located on the south side of the airport in Clayton County.

 

Since 2012, only about 5 percent of waste generated at Atlanta airport's terminals and concourses has been recycled, even though 85 percent of the waste stream is recyclable or compostable.

 

In addition to recycling waste generated at the airport, officials want to compost chipped yard trimmings from the city's public works department.

 

BEA code of conduct policy questioned

October 19, 2017

 

The mother of a Blue Earth Area High School student says her son's two-day suspension was due to an outdated policy in the student code of conduct.

 

And, she is recommending that district officials update it.

 

Janel Buseman attended the School Board meeting Monday night to ask board members to consider changing a tobacco policy she says in inconsistent and ambiguous.

 

“It's frustrating,” says Buseman, following the meeting. “You feel helpless and it's disheartening.”

 

Buseman says her son was suspended after admitting to school staff he had used a vaporizer in the past and having the item in his vehicle.

 

The district's policy calls for disciplinary action for possession, use, and/or transmission of tobacco in any form, but does not mention vaporizers.

 

Buseman was told the district follows a Minnesota School Board Association model policy that classifies a vaporizer as tobacco paraphernalia, and use or possession of one is a violation of Minnesota State High School League policy.

 

“In my 20 years that I have been involved in this school district I have never seen this model policy nor have I ever heard anyone mention it,” she says.

 

According to Buseman, her son did not believe he was violating district policy when he purchased the vaporizer and non-nicotine juice.

 

“The night of his suspension he was for drugs, including marijuana, heroin and nicotine, and none were present in his system,” she says.

 

District officials notified Buseman by phone her son was being suspended and gave her a suspension letter during parent-teacher conferences.

 

“My son did not use or possess tobacco on school grounds, which was the reason for his suspension,” she says.

 

Buseman would like to have the suspension reversed and taken off his school records because he is a straight-A student. But, district officials have told her they cannot appeal their decision.

 

Vote on superintendent contract tabled

October 18, 2017

 

Blue Earth Area School Board members easily approved master contracts for the district's teachers and three principals on Monday night.

 

However, giving the thumbs up to a new three-year contract for the superintendent was a different story.

 

Board member Sara Hauskins made it pretty clear that she would like to have Evan Gough's annual review done before voting to give him a pay raise.

 

“I don't feel comfortable approving a contract before the evaluation is completed,” says Hauskins. “I would hope you all feel we would all evaluate him.”

 

Hauskins asked board chair Frankie Bly to give a timeline on Gough's evaluation.

 

“We're putting the finishing touches on it,” says Bly. “You'll see a copy in November and a public copy at the January meeting.”

 

Hauskins says because there are two new board members, everyone should take part in the evaluation.

 

Gough recommended the board table the issue and expedite the evaluation process.

 

Currently, he is earning an annual salary of $126,814 and would see yearly 2 percent increases for three years beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

 

High school principal Richard Schneider's salary increased to $100,980 for this school year and will see it go up to $103,00 in 2018-19 and $105,060.

 

K-7 grade principal Melissa McGuire will earn $98,940 this year; $100,919 in 2018-19; and $102,937 in 2019-20. Assistant K-7 principal David Dressler will be paid $87,210, $88,954 and $90,733.

 

Under their three-year contract, salary and benefits for a teacher will increase an average total of 3.2 percent.

 

Are veterans getting adequate help?

October 13, 2017

 

Faribault County commissioners have begun their search to hire someone to head the Veterans Services Office (VSO) in Blue Earth.

 

That's good news for some residents who feel that local veterans aren't being helped because the VSO is short-staffed, with only one full-time person.

 

Members of the county's Personnel Committee last week interviewed a potential replacement for David Hanson, who resigned in August.

 

In August, County Board chair John Roper told Tripleanews.com that the VSO was running smoothly and veterans were receiving the services and assistance they need.

 

But, there are some who disagree.

 

Tripleanews.com has received photos and an anonymous letter expressing concern that the VSO is closed too often during business hours.

 

“We have noticed several veterans on various days standing outside the office reading the notes on the door just like we encountered,” says the letter. “We realize people have vacations and personal days, but 20 encounters on periodic timing seems highly questionable.”

 

Some photos and letters reportedly have been sent to the commissioners, calling for some action.

 

Tripleanews.com was unable to reach Roper, who also serves on the Personnel Committee, for a comment.

 

When Hanson resigned it was amid an investigation of a complaint that was filed against him.

 

County Attorney Troy Timmerman has never said when the complaint was filed or if Hanson was ever placed on paid leave at any time.

 

The investigation was halted after Hanson resigned and reached a separation agreement with the county that paid him more than $36,000 for time accrued, wages and severance pay.

 

Man sets house on fire during standoff

October 3, 2017

 

A 39-year-old Minnesota Lake man is facing two felony counts of arson after allegedly setting his house on fire when Faribault County deputies tried to apprehend him on an active warrant last Friday night.

 

According to a press release from the Sheriff's Department, deputies arrived at Timothy James Brandt's residence on 240th Street around 8 p.m. to arrest him on a warrant for one of several recent domestic-related charges.

 

When authorities made contact with Brandt, he told them the house would go up in flames and advised them to bring a respirator if they entered.

 

Authorities reportedly backed away from the house and called for more officers around 8:13 p.m. and also put the Minnesota Lake Fire Department on stand-by.

 

Chief deputy Scott Adams says deputies used public address systems from squad cars, text messages and phone calls to communicate with Brandt.

 

“For about 3 ½ hours we used negotiation skills to try and get him to come out,” says Adams. “Once we saw a flash of flames from an upstairs window two deputies and I went in to save him. When we couldn't take the smoke we got out.”

 

A court complaint says deputies also feared being ambushed after spotting an ax and a camouflage suit.

 

During the standoff Brandt reportedly texted authorities a threat about having weapons in the house and posted suicide threats on Facebook.

 

Brandt reportedly came out of the house from a second story glass patio door and fought with officers as they took him into custody.

 

The complaint says he allegedly had a folded knife clasped inside his hand during the confrontation.

 

Assisting at the scene were the Wells police and fire departments, Minnesota Lake Police Department, Blue Earth County Sheriff's Department, Minnesota State Patrol and Minnesota Lake Ambulance.

 

Brandt was charged Monday in Faribault County District Court with felony arson, felony threats, felony and gross misdemeanor obstructing law enforcement, gross misdemeanor obstructing firefighters and misdemeanor restraining violation.

 

The latest charges are the 10th set of charges filed against Brandt in the last six months.

 

Last March he was charged with kidnapping and domestic assault after a woman said he coerced her into staying at his home while he abused her. A judge dismissed the kidnapping charges.

 

Brandt has since been charged six times with violating a protection order preventing him from having any contact with the woman involved in the March incident. He's also charged with stalking that woman.

 

In July, Brandt allegedly turned a topless photograph of the woman into a decal that he put on his motorcycle. He was charged with two felony counts of non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images.

 

According to a court complaint, a woman called authorities on July 10 and said that Brandt had posted a photo on Facebook showing a decal made from a picture of her wearing only underwear.

 

Spending $6,000 gets taxpayers nothing

September 26, 2017

 

Faribault County commissioners spent more than $6,000 and evidently will get nothing for it.

 

Investigation of a complaint filed against former Veterans Services Office employee David Hanson cost the county $6,334.

 

According to County Attorney Troy Timmerman, the investigation was halted when Hanson resigned and agreed to a separation agreement that paid him more than $36,000.

 

Timmerman wouldn't say if the county will receive a partial report of findings from the firm it hired, Soldo Consulting, P.C., of Woodbury.

 

Michelle Soldo refused to comment on how many witnesses were interviewed or the number of hours her firm billed the county.

 

“I'm not able to tell you anything about the investigation,” says Soldo. “I'm not allowed to answer any questions you have.”

 

County Board chairman John Roper also is remaining silent and has not responded to the question on whether he feels the money was well spent.

 

Although Hanson's resignation was effective Aug. 4, he received wages through Sept. 23 totaling $8,724.

 

He was paid $18,696 for 600 hours of accrued paid time off; $6,000 in severance pay; and $3,116 for 100 hours of compensatory time.

 

In return, Hanson agreed not to file any lawsuits against the county, to release all claims and not seek additional monetary damages.

 

Cougar spotted near Blue Earth park

September 20, 2017

 

Blue Earth police and Faribault County Sheriff's Department are on the lookout for a mountain lion.

 

According to the police department's Facebook page, the cougar was spotted southwest of Putnam Park in the River Road area.

 

The Department of Natural Resources has been contacted and extra steps are being taken to track the animal's location.

 

Local officials say that feeding deer will attract mountain lions.

 

Authorities are asking residents to avoid hiking or jogging through the wooded areas during dawn, dusk or at night; times when mountain lions are most active.

 

Because most cougars will try to avoid confrontation, authorities recommend not approaching the animal if you see it.

 

Authorities say that pets and pet food should be kept inside at night as even large dogs could become prey.

 

County attorney reviewing decision

September 15, 2017

 

Faribault County's chief prosecutor may have some extra work to do because of a judge's ruling.

 

Judge Douglas Richards recently dismissed 7 felony charges against a 60-year-old man allegedly caught with drugs, guns and child pornography following a traffic stop.

 

“I am able to appeal that ruling,” says County Attorney Troy Timmerman. “I have not yet decided, if I will.”

 

Donald Gene Beckmann was charged in March after Wells police officer Christopher Beaver stopped him for speeding.

 

According to court documents, a search of Beckmann's vehicle allegedly found two baggies of methamphetamine, two handguns and a computer tablet containing images of nude juveniles.

 

Court papers say Richards ruled in favor of the defense's motion to suppress all evidence because the officer did not have legal probable cause to search the car.

 

“Officer Beaver lacked reasonable, articulable basis to expand the scope and duration of the traffic stop to inquire about drugs and other illegalities in the vehicle,” Richards wrote.

 

A complaint says Beaver obtained a warrant to search the vehicle after a K9 was called in and indicated there were drugs in the vehicle.

 

Beaver stated he was suspicious because Beckmann and a passenger were acting nervously and had a dog with them that he hadn't ever seen with them before.

 

Richards says those reasons for suspicion weren't adequate enough to ask Beckmann to exit his vehicle and ask him about what he was doing and what was in his vehicle.

 

The passenger in the car, 54-year-old Tracy Lee Rathai of Wells, pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor possession after a trace amount of methamphetamine was found in a duffel bag in the trunk that also contained clothing with his name. He was sentenced in May to 45 days in jail and two years probation.

 

Hanson to receive more than $36,000

September 7, 2017

 

Faribault County will pay a Veterans Services Office (VSO) employee who recently resigned more than $36,000.

 

On Tuesday, commissioners approved a separation agreement with David Hanson, an officer and head of the VSO since 2010.

 

Under the five-page agreement, Hanson and county officials agree that his resignation is in “good standing.”

 

Hanson was employed with the county for 24 years, working in the Public Works Department before joining the VSO.

 

Although his resignation is effective Aug. 4, Hanson will receive wages totaling $8,724 for the time period of Aug. 7 through Sept. 23.

 

He also will be paid $18,696 for 600 hours of accrued paid time off; $6,000 in severance pay; and $3,116 for 100 hours of compensatory time.

 

In return, Hanson agrees not to file any lawsuits against the county, will release all claims and will not seek additional monetary damages.

 

County officials do not admit any wrongdoing or any violations of contract, policies, state and federal laws as well as local ordinances.

 

Hanson's resignation apparently halts an investigation of a complaint filed against him.

 

County Attorney Troy Timmerman says an outside service was conducting the investigation and that it was never completed.

 

Hanson signed the agreement on Aug. 31 and has 15 days to rescind it in writing.

 

Board accepts Hanson's resignation

September 5, 2017

 

Faribault County commissioners today accepted the resignation of David Hanson, an officer and head of the Veterans Services Office (VSO).

 

Hanson was employed with the county for 24 years, working in the Public Works Department before joining the VSO in 2010.

 

In July, County Attorney Troy Timmerman confirmed that a complaint had been filed against Hanson and that an investigation was being conducted.

 

“We hired an outside service and did not borrow another agency to do the investigation, but it was never completed,” Timmerman says. “I don't have a report, exactly.”

 

The county attorney says commissioners also approved a separation agreement with Hanson.

 

Timmerman reportedly made copies of the agreement for the commissioners to view before voting and collected them afterward.

 

“We thank Mr. Hanson for his years of service to the county and to our country,” he says.

 

While details of the agreement are public information, Timmerman is requiring a data request be made in writing before being released.

 

County officials will be moving forward, says Timmerman, with filling the vacancy immediately.

 

Veterans needing help being served

August 18, 2017

 

Despite being short-staffed and in turmoil, a Faribault County commissioner says the Veterans Services Office (VSO) is functioning as usual.

 

County Board chair John Roper says the county has about 350 veterans and those seeking assistance will be helped.

 

“As far as I know, the veterans office is running very smoothly right now,” he says. “We're serving veterans and their needs are being met.”

 

Roper says Jenna Schmidtke, who was hired last September as an administrative assistant, has been promoted to a temporary VSO officer.

 

“She's been handling things since early or mid-June,” he says. “If she needs help she can turn to other area veterans offices, like in Albert Lea and Mankato.”

 

Last month, County Attorney Troy Timmerman confirmed that a complaint has been filed against Dave Hanson, an officer and head of the Veterans Services Office.

 

Whether Hanson is on leave with or without pay is not public information, says Timmerman, because there is still a pending investigation.

 

Hanson's woes came on the heels of a VSO officer fired last March for violating four county personnel policies that included offensive conduct, harassment and violence.

 

At Tuesday's board meeting, commissioners went behind closed doors to again discuss what Timmerman describes as pending litigation regarding the VSO.

 

Heartland getting $15M USDA loan

August 10, 2017

 

A non-profit corporation will receive major funding to purchase and renovate three long-term care facilities in the area.

 

Winnebago City Council member Jean Anderson says Heartland Rural Services was approved for a $15 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

 

“It's really going to save us,” says Anderson. “We'll keep 287 jobs at the facilities and continue to provide needed senior care.”

 

Heartland will use $7 million of the loan to buy Parker Oaks in Winnebago, Truman Senior Living in Truman and Parkview Care Center in Wells from ElderCare of Minnesota, owned by Jim and Kathy Birchem of Little Falls.

 

Heartland board president Bill Erickson says gaining USDA approval has been a long process.

 

“We have been working on this since December of 2013,” he says. “We have a loan commitment from USDA that was a critical piece to moving forward.”

 

Erickson says more details are expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.

 

During a recent Truman City Council meeting, Pat Rafferty of Heartland told council members he expects a closing date of 60 to 90 days for the Truman facility.

 

Heartland is planning upgrades that involve memory care and assisted-living units at the locations.

 

About 60 youths cited at outdoor party

August 4, 2017

 

The number cited for underage consumption at a party early Sunday morning in Faribault County is nearly twice than first reported.

 

Chief Deputy Scott Adams says the initial estimate of more than 30 youths increased after a closer look at the numbers.

 

“There were probably about 60 ticketed for underage consumption,” he says. “If I had to guess, I'd say about half were from Faribault County.”

 

Adams says Waseca County deputies contacted the Sheriff's Office around 1:30 a.m. with information obtained during a traffic stop about an outdoor party east of Minnesota Lake near the county line.

 

According to Adams, there were about 150 people on the grounds and more than 40 vehicles parked at the site.

 

He says those at the party were from Faribault, Blue Earth and Waseca counties, as well as northern Iowa.

 

Assisting Adams, Sheriff Mike Gormley and three deputies were a Waseca County deputy and a state trooper. Most of the law officers remained at the site until 7:30 a.m.

 

Attendees were tested and rides provided for those with blood-alcohol content above the 0.08 limit.

 

“There were a decent number of sober people there,” says Adams. “We had about 30 who helped give people rides home.”

 

Legal guardians of the minors at the party were called to pick up their youths.

 

While no arrests were made, reports were sent to County Attorney Troy Timmerman to determine if any adults at the party should face charges.

 

Adams anticipates two adults will be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one juvenile with false report of a crime.

 

County hires officer, councilor concerned

July 28, 2017

 

A Winnebago police officer earlier this month resigned to accept a position with the Faribault County Sheriff's Department.

 

And, it's not the first time that's happened.

 

At least four officers in the last several years have left to work for the county and it's a trend that has City Council member Scott Robertson concerned.

 

“It's bothersome,” says Robertson. “I'll have to talk to Sheriff Gormley to see if he can keep his help there.”

 

Davis' departure comes just 15 months after being hired full time by the city.

 

Sheriff Mike Gormley says Davis was working part time for the county and was chosen from a pool of part-timers who applied.

 

He says losing an officer to another agency is, “the nature of law enforcement.”

 

In fact, Davis was hired by the Winnebago Police Department following his internship with the county.

 

“Heck 'yes,' I understand their frustration,” says Gormley. “But, it's not like we're out there just trying to steal someone's employee.”

 

“If someone decides they want a different job, I don't know if there's anything I can do,” he adds.

 

The Winnebago council promoted Jacob Pettit to a full-time officer and authorized Police Chief Eric Olson to hire three to five part-timers.

 

Olson says there are no training costs when hiring a full-time officer because the department usually promotes from within.

 

However, Olson estimates equipping an officer to do their job can be as much as $1,500. He says the biggest expense when hiring a part-time officer is training, costing $200 to $800.

 

Man faces charges for decal of woman

July 20, 2017

 

A decal of a topless woman put on a Minnesota Lake man's motorcycle has landed him in hot water.

 

On Monday, 39-year-old Timothy James Brandt was charged in Faribault County District Court with two felony charges of non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images and three charges of violating an order for protection.

 

According to a court complaint, a woman called authorities on July 10 and said that Brandt had posted a photo on Facebook showing a decal made from a picture of her wearing only underwear.

 

The complaint says there was a caption that said, “Beautiful day to show off the old lady, lol.”

 

The woman says she had consented to taking the photo, says the complaint, but not to it being shared.

 

Brandt also faces a felony and two misdemeanor charges for violation of a restraining order.

 

According to court papers, Brandt reportedly drove up near the woman in public places on two separate occasions.

 

One of the restraining order violations became a felony, says the complaint, when Brandt allegedly had a replica BB gun and a folding knife with him.

 

During the hearing on Monday, Judge Douglas Richards set bail at $10,000 with conditions, which includes no contact with the victim.

 

Amboy farmer suing commissioners

July 18, 2017

 

An Amboy farmer says Faribault County commissioners have violated ditch drainage system laws. So, he's taking them to court.

 

Charles Carlson has filed a civil suit against the county's Ditch Authority, alleging the five commissioners have allowed unauthorized filling in or degradation to portions of Ditch 24.

 

“What they are going to do is flood me out,” he says. “They want to do anything they feel, even if it's illegal to shove this through.”

 

Carlson wants a judge to force the commissioners to remove obstructions he says affect his ability to farm and enjoy the economic benefits of his land located in Winnebago City Township.

 

Over the past 20 years Carlson has sparred with the County Board on various issues, but it has gotten worse with passage of the buffer law.

 

Carlson says the commissioners approved work on a project to re-direct water without holding any hearings for affected landowners.

 

“This was the last straw,” he says. “I want them to stop work on the project and hold a hearing.”

 

Carlson says he and three other landowners on the lower end of the watershed are being adversely affected while two on the upper end are benefiting.

 

Even if the court rules in Carlson's favor that may not end his dispute with the county.

 

“There will be a monetary suit coming,” he says.

 

Complaint filed against head of VSO

July 13, 2017

 

Faribault County's legal eagle has spoken, but he isn't saying much.

 

County Attorney Troy Timmerman says a complaint has been filed against Dave Hanson, an officer and head of the county's Veterans Service Office.

 

“There's an investigation of the complaint,” he says. “That's all I can say.”

 

Timmerman would not say who filed the complaint, when it was filed, who is conducting the investigation and when he expects it will be completed.

 

“It feels like you're walking a tight rope,” he says. “There's the public's right to know but also the person's privacy that's protected under the Data Practices Act.”

 

Because there is a pending investigation, says Timmerman, whether Hanson is on leave with or without pay is not public information.

 

At the data request of Tripleanews.com, Central Services director Dawn Fellows released payroll information for Hanson covering the payroll period from April to the present.

 

The timecards show that the “pay date” section covering two-week periods was not filled in on two occasions and June 9 is the last “pay date” provided.

 

In an e-mail Timmerman wrote, “I have retained those that I feel are not public data.”

 

Faribault County officials not talking

July 10, 2017

 

Faribault County commissioners remain silent, while the county attorney cautiously responds and cities data privacy issues.

 

Acting on a tip of nearly three weeks ago, Tripleanews.com has been trying to find out if an employee has been placed on paid leave or if a complaint has been filed against them.

 

All commissioners, except Bill Groskreutz, have ignored requests by e-mail or phone call for a comment.

 

Groskreutz would only say that all information must come from County Attorney Troy Timmerman.

 

At the direction of Timmerman, Central Services director Dawn Fellows released payroll information from April to the present for the employee in question.

 

The timecards show that the “pay date” section covering two-week periods was not filled in on two occasions and June 9 is the last “pay date” provided.

 

“I have retained those that I feel are not public data,” Timmerman wrote in an e-mail.

 

Being placed on leave with or without pay, says the county attorney, may be a form of discipline and therefore is not public information.

 

“I am not trying to hide anything,” Timmerman says.

 

As to whether a complaint exists, Timmerman says an attorney with the Minnesota Newspaper Association representing the Faribault County Register believes this information is public.

 

Timmerman will review an unpublished Court of Appeals opinion that Mark Anfinson says supports his view and plans to have a response this week.

 

Commissioners' per diems top $16,000

July 4, 2017

 

Twice a month a Faribault County commissioner goes on KBEW Radio to discuss what happened at their monthly meeting.

 

All five commissioners take advantage of the 20-minute public service program, which airs at 10:10 a.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday.

 

However, only three --- Bill Groskreutz, Tom Loveall and Tom Warmka ---- have sought payment by way of a per diem.

 

“It's always been allowed, but only rarely taken,” says John Thompson, county auditor/treasurer. “Usually they have another meeting in town that day.”

 

While the amounts are small, it appears there is a cost for transparency and informing the public.

 

Last year, Loveall billed the county four times for $130, while Groskreutz was paid $50 for three shows and Warmka once for $10.

 

All commissioners also have been paid for attending city council and townships meetings held within their respective district; the amounts ranging from as low as $20 to as high as $80.

 

In addition to their 2016 annual salary of $19,343, commissioners were paid for any committee meetings they attend that pertain to county business.

 

Each commissioner was allowed to receive up to $40 for half a day and $80 for a full day.

 

Commissioner John Roper received the most in per diems last year with a total of $4,320, followed closely by Groskreutz with $4,170; Loveall, $3,190; Warmka, $2,920; and Greg Young, $1,830.

 

While the commissioners sought reimbursement on a timely basis, Loveall was paid $360 for December 2016 per diems last April.

 

At their last meeting in 2016, commissioners voted on Dec. 20 to increase their pay this year to $19,923.

 

Council holds work session at school

June 20, 2017

 

The City Council two years ago fought to keep the Winnebago Elementary School open.

 

Now, they may have to try and save Southern Plains Education Cooperative's (SPEC) learning center located at the former school.

 

Members of the council and Economic Development Authority on May 31 toured the alternative school as part of a work session.

 

“They're doing good things there,” says Councilman Scott Robertson. “It would be a loss to the city if they left.”

 

“We asked if there is anything we can help them with to try and keep them here. We want them to know there is good relations with the city,” he adds.

 

Southern Plains executive director Sarah Mittelstadt says city officials requested the tour and were happy to oblige.

 

A memo in the June 13 council meeting packet says the tour was to offer Southern Plains officials support and encouragement.

 

Mittelstadt has said in the past that the co-op will be in Winnebago for at least the 2017-18 school year.

 

She says the building has major repairs that need to be addressed or the co-op has to find another site.

 

At their April meeting, members of the Granada-Huntley-East Chain (GHEC) School Board discussed plans to find a new location.

 

Robertson says Southern Plains has between and 75 and 100 students in grades K-12 from the school districts of BEA; Fairmont Area; Martin County West; GHEC; Truman; and United South Central.

 

BEA officials cited deferred maintenance costs of $5 million over a 10-year period as one reason for closing the elementary school.

 

“Our hands are tied, the building is owned by the school district,” says Robertson. “We could help them find some federal or state funding.”

 

Former VSO employee hires attorney

June 16, 2017

 

A former Veterans Services Office (VSO) employee may be filing a lawsuit against Faribault County.

 

Tripleanews.com has learned that Ryan Bromeland, who was fired March 21, has hired a Twin Cities attorney.

 

Members of the County Board and County Attorney Troy Timmerman last month met behind closed doors two times to discuss threatened litigation involving the VSO.

 

However, Timmerman will not say if the closed-sessions involved Bromeland's termination.

 

Timmerman says he is continuing to give the commissioners legal advice, for now.

 

“Generally, if a suit is filed against the county we notify the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust,” he says. “They determine which attorney will represent the county.”

 

Bromeland was fired following an investigation conducted by Fairmont Police Department detective Eric Tonder.

 

Tonder found that Bromeland allegedly violated four county personnel policies:

 

  • offensive conduct, harassment, violence;

  • data practices and privacy;

  • firearms at work;

  • and, smoke-free environment.

EDA to foreclose, Zierke sells building

June 13, 2017

 

Winnebago Economic Development Authority (EDA) officials are taking another step to collect a loan of nearly $58,000.

 

City Council members last November hired the law firm Olson & Burns, P.C., of Minot, N.D., for $4,000 to begin foreclosure proceedings to gain ownership of land in that state used as collateral.

 

At a recent EDA meeting, City Administrator Chris Ziegler told board members he has spoken with City Attorney David Frundt and got the latest update.

 

“Some more forms need to be filled out, then it's ours and it can be listed for sale,” he says. “I've been told that a family member may be interested in buying it.”

 

Ziegler is referring to some 75 acres that Nancy Delmaire used to secure a $60,000 to open Fredonia & Luella's Seafood Restaurant at the former Tasty Treatz site on South Main Street.

 

Ziegler says about 30 acres can be used to grow crops and another 40 acres for hay. He says a Realtor has appraised the property at $62,000.

 

Balance of the Fredonia loan is $57,279 and the last payment was made last July.

 

Ziegler says money obtained from the EDA was for operating expenses and any improvements needed to the building.

 

Delmaire and her business partner Glenn Abbott also obtained a loan from First Financial Bank in Winnebago.

 

Board member Doug Hill, who works as a loan officer at First Financial, says the building and house on the property are being sold for $70,000.

 

On another matter, Zierke Built Mfg., Inc., may have a buyer for one of its buildings.

 

Ziegler says he recently spoke with Zierke vice president Kyle Zierke and was told the company's building on Highway 169 may be sold.

 

Hill says he has heard the new owner is interested in using the building to store trucks.

 

In the past, the Zierkes have said they will be asking $490,000 for the main building on Highway 109 or $600,000 for both.

 

In 2013, the fair market value for the ZBM property was estimated at $680,000.

 

Dollar General building in Winnebago

May 25, 2017

 

Area residents will have another Dollar General store to shop at later this year.

 

After months of considering sites in Faribault County, executives of the Goodlettsville, TN-based, company have made their decision.

 

The store is moving forward in Winnebago. In fact, construction began this week,” says Crystal Ghassemi of the company's communications department.

 

Based on our current timeline, it appears the store should be open by mid-fall,” she adds.

 

The new store will be located on Main Street South, just north of the vacant Tasty Treatz building.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says the company has been granted a building permit to erect a 7,500-square foot facility.

 

Dollar General currently has a store in Blue Earth and one in Wells.

 

Adding another store in the county as part of the company's nationwide expansion plans for this year.

 

Last year, company officials announced that 1,000 new stores would be opened in the U.S., bringing the total to nearly 15,000 operating in 44 states.

 

That compares to Wal Mart's 5,229 stores; Target, 1,803; CVS, 9,600; Family Dollar, 7,964; and Dollar Tree, 6,320.

 

Faribault Co. may be facing lawsuit

May 19, 2017

 

Faribault County officials may be gearing up for another legal battle.

 

For a second time this month commissioners at their May 16 meeting went behind doors for a closed-session.

 

This time, County Attorney Troy Timmerman was more forthcoming on what the five-member board talked about.

 

We closed to discuss threatened litigation involving the Veteran Services Office,” he says.

 

Timmerman would not say if the possible lawsuit is related to the March 21 firing of Ryan Bromeland, who worked in the Veterans Services Office.

 

An investigation conducted by a detective of the Fairmont Police Department found that Bromeland violated the following four county personnel policies:

  • offensive conduct, harassment, violence;

  • data practices and privacy;

  • firearms at work;

  • and, smoke-free environment.

 

Earlier this month, commissioners closed their May 2 meeting to the public for what Timmerman said, “was to advise them of a pending legal matter and to discuss how the county was proceeding.”

 

At that time Timmerman's explanation for holding a closed-session fell short of what is required under the state's Open Meeting law, which states:

 

In order to close a meeting under the attorney-client privilege exception, the governing body must give a particularized statement describing the subject to be discussed.

 

A general statement that the meeting is being closed to discuss pending or threatened litigation is not sufficient.”

 

Adams no longer a county employee

May 13, 2017

 

A Faribault County Highway Department employee on paid leave is no longer on the payroll.

 

County Attorney Troy Timmerman says Mark Adams' last day of employment was on May 3.

 

Timmerman and Central Services director Dawn Fellows would not say whether Adams was fired or if he resigned.

 

Adams was placed on paid leave after being charged with four counts of possession of stolen property; two felonies, a gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor.

 

“I can't comment on it,” says Commissioner John Roper. “I was instructed by our attorney Troy Timmerman of what I can tell you - 'No comment.'”

 

Roper is chairman of the County Board and also serves on the Personnel Committee.

 

Fellows in the past has said that a complaint had been filed and it was being investigated, but she would say if it was related to the criminal charges.

 

If Adams was fired, he could file an appeal through his union and that may involve a lengthy process.

 

Roper says “until it (the issue) is a past event” no details will be made public.

 

Adams is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment hearing on May 22.

 

He is accused of allegedly stealing a welder extender cable, 100-gallon fuel tank with pump, road grader shield and a leveling box scraper. Value of the items range from at least $500 to more than $1,000 but less than $5,000.

 

The felony charges carry a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 fine, while the gross misdemeanor is one year in jail and a $3,000 fine and the misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

BEA officials disturbed with Netflix show

May 10, 2017

 

A Netflix series detailing a teenage girl's suicide is drawing the ire of school district officials nationwide, including those at Blue Earth Area School District.

 

At Monday night's School Board meeting, high school principal Rich Schneider criticized the fictional show called “13 Reasons Why.”

 

Schneider told board members during his report that Netflix is profiting off a sensitive topic and not spending any money toward its prevention.

 

“It plays upon our students in one of their most impressionable stages of life,” says Schneider. “Suicide is very real and not something that anyone should minimize, or worse yet, glamorize.”

 

“13 Reasons Why” is a 13-episode drama of a high school student who kills herself and leaves behind audiotapes describing in graphic detail the events that caused her death.

 

In each tape, she blames her death on the actions of classmates and inaction of a faculty member.

 

Producers of the series say it offers messages of asking for help when you need it and about being kinder to other people.

 

Schneider, K-7 principal Melissa McGuire and assistant principal Dave Dressler have contacted parents, guardians and staff by e-mail.

 

Three website links have been provided to explain their concerns about the show and how to talk about suicide with your children.

 

“We have resources that we hope people will use and reach out to us for assistance,” Schneider says.

 

Anyone with questions is asked to contact one of the district's counselors, social workers, nurse or administrators.

 

Appeal cost county more than $40,000

April 25, 2017

 

A former deputy who appealed his termination cost Faribault County more than $40,000 in legal fees.

 

Now, county officials may be hoping that doesn't happen again.

 

County auditor/treasurer John Thompson says the bill in Shane Dulac's case, which went to arbitration, totaled $42,903 and was paid to employment attorney Susan Hansen of Minneapolis.

 

Commissioner John Roper and County Board chairman says they haven't been notified whether Ryan Bromeland plans to appeal his firing on March 21 from the Veterans Services Office.

 

“We had with cause (to fire him),” says Roper. “I don't believe he has a right to an appeal. As far as I am concerned the door is closed. It is no longer a story.”

 

Roper says Bromeland was still in his six-month probationary period which means he could be dismissed for any reason.

 

According to a news report, an investigation conducted by a detective of the Fairmont Police Department found Bromeland violated the following four county personnel policies:

  • offensive conduct, harassment, violence;

  • data practices and privacy;

  • firearms at work;

  • and, smoke-free environment.

 

Roper, who also serves on the Personnel Committee, says Bromeland's situation may be a little more complicated because he is a veteran.

 

“Veterans have special rights when it comes to employment,” he says. “He has a lot of rights that we don't have.”

 

Finally, BEA releases payroll information

April 21, 2017

 

After six months of requests, it took a state agency's advisory opinion to force Blue Earth Area School District officials to release payroll information of a former third-grade teacher.

 

Timesheets released by school district attorney Michelle Kenney shows that Steven Wood was not allowed to teach following his arrest last May for domestic assault.

 

But, Wood was placed on paid leave while the district was conducting an internal investigation of a complaint.

 

From May 17 through June 9, he was paid for 17 days that were classified as “workshop.”

 

Last September, Wood resigned after reaching a separation agreement with the district to pay him $19,731.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough and Kenney said information regarding Wood's employment status after he was arrested was protected by the state's Data Practices Act because the district was investigating a complaint.

 

Because Wood resigned and there was no disciplinary action, district officials maintained that timesheet data remained “private” in perpetuity.

 

However, Commissioner Matthew Massman of the Department of Administration disagreed, saying that timesheets and other comparable data used for payroll purposes is available to the public under statute 13.43.

 

“The plain language of the statute resists such an interpretation,” Massman wrote in his opinion. “The fact that a complaint exists does not mean that those public elements become private or reveal private data, even if an entity is using them in an active investigation.”

 

Dollar General considering expansion

April 18, 2017

 

Despite any rumors you may have heard, it's not certain if the local area will be part of Dollar General's national expansion plans for 2017.

 

We are currently in a due diligence process for a new store on South Main Street in Winnebago,” says Crystal Ghassemi of the company's communications department.

 

“We're interested in adding a new location in Faribault County, but have not committed to doing so yet,” she adds.

 

Dollar General currently has a store in Blue Earth and one in Wells.

 

Ghassemi says the company hopes to have a final decision if the discount chain is coming to Winnebago by mid-summer.

 

Last year, executives of the Goodlettsville, TN-based, company announced that 1,000 new stores would be opened in the U.S., bringing the total to nearly 15,000 operating in 44 states.

 

That compares to Wal Mart's 5,229 stores; Target, 1,803; CVS, 9,600; Family Dollar, 7,964; and Dollar Tree, 6,320.

 

Bago council votes for City Hall security

April 12, 2017

 

Winnebago could be spending up to $2,000 to improve security at City Hall.

 

At the recommendation of Police Chief Eric Olson, councilmembers voted Monday night to install protective glass at the counter, new doors and locks.

 

Olson says there have been a couple of incidents involving irate citizens and he's worried that something bad might happen.

 

“I feel we need to lock City Hall down for employee safety,” says Olson. “Even though we are a small community, violence can happen anywhere and anytime.”

 

Initial estimates for the improvements are at $1,295, however, councilmembers want a two-piece window that will likely raise the price.

 

Councilman Scott Robertson was quick to support Olson's request, saying, “times have changed and it's crazy.”

 

“I don't think you can be safe enough. We should have been thinking about this a long time ago,” he says. “It's an awful cheap price to keep someone safe.”

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says he supports making City Hall a safer workplace, but the council should considered how the community may respond.

 

“I am afraid we will get push-back from the community,” says Ziegler. “Some will say, 'I don't feel welcomed here.'”

 

Olson says someone getting hurt is a lot worse than any “push-back” from the community.

 

Although installing two-piece protective glass at the counter will make communication better and a little more personal, councilmembers don't want safety to be comprised.

 

“I am more concerned about someone jumping over the counter, than someone shooting,” says Deputy clerk Jessi Sturtz.

 

Southern Plains leaving Winnebago?

April 10, 2017

 

Use of the former Winnebago Elementary School may be on its last leg.

 

Southern Plains Education Cooperative for the past two years has been using the school for some 50 students in its K-12 alternative learning program.

 

The co-op serves six school districts, Blue Earth Area (BEA); Fairmont Area; Martin County West, GHEC, Truman and United South Central.

 

Last week, members of the Granada-Huntley-East Chain (GHEC) School Board discussed plans to find a new location.

 

Southern Plains director Sarah Mittelstadt says the co-op will be in Winnebago for at least the 2017-18 school year.

 

“The issue is that there is significant deferred maintenance with the Winnebago building,” says Mittelstadt. “We are looking at solutions to address those issues or find an alternative location.”

 

In December 2015, BEA School Board members approved installation of a new boiler costing nearly $75,000 that was divided with the other districts.

 

BEA officials cited deferred maintenance costs of $5 million over a 10-year period as one reason for closing Winnebago Elementary.

 

County employee placed on paid leave

April 4, 2017

 

Until now, Faribault County officials have been reluctant to comment on the employment status of a highway department employee facing criminal charges.

 

But, county commissioner Greg Young was pretty straightforward when asked.

 

“It's no secret. He's on paid leave and he has not been terminated yet,” says Greg Young. “We're waiting for the outcome of different investigations.”

 

Mark A. Adams, 59, of Winnebago faces two felony, gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor counts of possession of stolen property.

 

Central Services director Dawn Fellows says a complaint has been filed and is being investigated. She would not say if it is related to the criminal charges.

 

Adams made his first court appearance on Monday and an omnibus hearing was set for April 17.

 

He is accused of allegedly stealing a welder extender cable, 100-gallon fuel tank with pump, road grader shield and a leveling box scraper. Value of the items range from at least $500 to more than $1,000 but less than $5,000.

 

The felony charges carry a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 fine, while the gross misdemeanor is one year in jail and a $3,000 fine and the misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

According to a court complaint, county officials were conducting an employment investigation involving Adams last January. They suspected timecard issues and installed a GPS unit on his work vehicle.

 

As a result of information gather, says the complaint, the sheriff's department contacted the Nicollet County Sheriff's Department to investigate possible stolen county property in Adams' possession.

 

County employee faces criminal charges

March 29 2017

 

Faribault County officials aren't commenting on the employment status of a highway department employee facing criminal charges.

 

Mark A. Adams, 59, of Winnebago faces two felony counts, one gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor count of possession of stolen property.

 

“A complaint has been filed and we're investigating,” says county Central Services director Dawn Fellows. “That's all I can say.”

 

Fellows wouldn't say if the complaint is related to the criminal charges and County Attorney Troy Timmerman did not respond to a request for comment.

 

According to a court complaint, county officials were conducting an employment investigation involving Adams last January. They suspected timecard issues and installed a GPS unit on his work vehicle.

 

As a result of information gather, says the complaint, the sheriff's department contacted the Nicollet County Sheriff's Department to investigate possible stolen county property in Adams' possession.

 

Adams is accused of stealing a welder extender cable, 100-gallon fuel tank with pump, road grader shield and a leveling box scraper. Value of the items range from at least $500 to more than $1,000 but less than $5,000.

 

During his investigation, Nicollet County investigator Aaron Petersen interviewed a retired highway department employee and two current employees.

 

One employee told Petersen that during a bike ride along Highway 169 in 2015 he noticed a box scraper that looked familiar sitting by Adams' horse arena. The employee says the scraper had been altered so Adams could use it on his bobcat.

 

Another employee says he was told by a fellow worker that a box scarper he had not seen for more than a year was at Adams' farm.

 

Adams told Petersen he purchased the scraper at Yeager Implement but could not provide any proof.

 

“If it's theirs, that fine. It's not a big deal. I never use it,” Adams told Petersen.

 

The felony charges carry a maximum of five years in prison and $10,000 fine, while the gross misdemeanor is one year in jail and a $3,000 fine and the misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

Adams is scheduled to make his first court appearance on April 3.

 

Permits to carry up in county, state

March 24, 2017

 

Faribault County isn't exactly the Wild Wild West. At least not yet.

 

For the past three years, permits to allow local residents to carry a firearm in public have increased.

 

“There are definitely more women and couples getting them,” says Sheriff Mike Gormley. “I don't know the reason why more want to carry a gun and I don't ask.”

 

Last year, 271 permits were issued in the county. That's up from the previous year of 166 or a 63 percent hike. In 2014, 119 permits were approved.

 

Gormley says during a presidential election year and the possibility of candidate pushing for tougher gun laws getting elected creates interest.

 

Applications to carry a firearm must be made at the sheriff's office and costs $100 for a new permit, $75 for renewal and $25 for veterans.

 

Gormley says applicants must provide proof of approved firearms training and a criminal background check is conducted to determine if an application should be denied.

 

“I have had to deny, suspend or revoke very few,” says Gormley. “It's not very many.”

 

Out of the 285 applications last year, Gormley denied only one and 13 were still pending at the end of 2016.

 

Sheriffs across the state report there were 122 permits suspended, 56 revoked and 658 denied last year.

 

Although a permit to carry a firearm is good for five years, Gormley says the state conducts an annual check to make sure holders have not broken the law..

 

In Martin County, 354 permits were approved last year compared to 311 in 2015 and 176 in 2014.

 

Statewide law enforcement issued more than 71,000 permits, a record one-year total.

 

An annual report from the Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows there are 265,726 valid permits in the state. A year ago, the total was 217,909.

 

Zero interest for vacant city-owned lot

March 19, 2017

 

Last month's bid of $1,000 for a vacant city-owned lot at 435 First Avenue Northwest wasn't enough.

 

So, the Winnebago City Council sought new bids with a minimum asking price of $4,000 to be considered at their March 13 meeting.

 

There were no takers ---- zero interest.

 

Councilman Scott Robertson wasn't happy and thinks the council should have sold the property when they had the chance.

 

“I've had four weeks to stew about this. It bothers me to no end,” says Robertson. “I'd like to see progress. It's high time we make this happen.”

 

Robertson says someone is interested in putting a house on the lot and that means the property would be back on the tax rolls.

 

But, council member Jean Anderson says selling the lot for too low of a price would set a bad precedent.

 

“If we get $1,000 for a desirable lot, what will we get for ones that aren't?” she says.

 

Anderson believes the city should wait for a higher price because she has heard property values are expected to increase at least 10 percent.

 

Two years ago, Anderson purchased the lot for $4,200, however, the sale was voided for violation of the state's conflict of interest law

 

Thinking outside of the box, Councilman Rick Johnson offered a possible solution of setting up a “rebate program” policy for persons buying vacant city-owned property.

 

“If you build and actually get the lot back on the tax rolls, you'd get back all the money you paid for it,” he says.

 

Johnson didn't know if his plan is legal and City Attorney David Frundt wasn't sure either.

 

Frundt says he will do some research and report back to the council at their April meeting.

 

On another matter, council members are in no hurry to sell the city-owned duplexes after rejecting a $150,000 offer from Realtor Jim Ness.

 

The city owes about $189,000 on the duplexes that have an assessed value of $280,000. Also, about $40,000 in reserves have been accumulated from rental of the units.

 

Council members discussed having the duplexes listed for sale and asked City Administrator Chris Ziegler to contact some real estate firms.

 

“It would give higher exposure,” says Anderson. “It's the community's money and we have to make sure we do what is right.”

 

Robertson questions whether the city should even be in the housing business.

 

“I'd like to see them go into the private sector,” he says. “I don't want to sell anything for less than they're worth or what we owe. We shouldn't have a fire sale.”

 

K-9 officer Zeus aids Wells police

March 16, 2017

 

Faribault County's K-9 officer has struck again, this time the 2-year-old German Shepherd took its sniffing skills to Wells.

 

During a traffic stop on March 6, Zeus was called in and indicated there was a presence of narcotic odor in the vehicle.

 

Authorities obtained a warrant to search the vehicle and found drugs, two guns and electronic devices, which contained evidence of child pornography.

 

According to a Wells police department press release, 59-year-old Donald Beckmann Jr. was arrested on March 13.

 

Beckmann appeared in Faribault County District Court on Wednesday and was charged with seven felonies. His bail was set at $100,000 along with conditions for his release.

 

He faces three counts of fifth-degree possession of marijuana; two counts of possession of child pornography; and two counts of a felon ineligible to possess a firearm.

 

If released from jail, Beckmann must keep his attorney and court informed of any address change; may not leave the state without written court approval; cannot consume alcohol or use drugs; and may not possess a firearm.

 

His next court appearance is scheduled for March 27.

 

In addition to the Faribault County Sheriff's Department, Wells police were assisted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

 

BEA makes cuts in Art department

March 14, 2017

 

Residents packed the Blue Earth Area School Board meeting on Monday night to see what reductions would be made to the district's Art department next year.

 

On a 4-2 vote, board members passed a resolution to eliminate an elementary art teacher and not replace a current high school art instructor who is retiring at the end of the school year.

 

In addition, other 1.58 full-time equivalency positions will be cut. By making the moves district officials expect to save $206,000.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough says declining enrollment is a driving factor for the reductions. He says the district has 65 less students this year, which means a decrease in state aid of about $560,000.

 

“We were definitely not prepared for that, the number of families moving out of the district,” says Gough. “We're getting smaller. Our enrollment is down and we have to reduce staff. We will be O.K.”

 

Gough discussed the district's finances, saying that state aid has dropped from $10,221 per pupil in 2013 to the current $8,687.

 

He says the district's revenue consists of 10 percent from local property taxes, 3 percent from the federal government and the rest from the state.

 

“This is not an easy decision for anybody up here,” says board member Jesse Haugh. “We're struggling with the budget. It stinks. But, I have trust and faith in our administrators.”

 

Several residents gave their input including Aaron Johnson, a doctor at United Hospital District.

 

Johnson told board members his family moved to Blue Earth was because the district was one of two in the area that offered orchestra for his daughter.

 

Johnson says the district must maintain its excellence to education and that includes a strong Art department. He warned against making cuts for just economic reasons that would set a precedent.

 

“We wouldn't be here if there wasn't that commitment to excellence,” he says. “I can promise you if that changes, we will move.”

 

Former music teacher Sue Ellingsen says that the arts teach that problems have more than one answer.

 

“Art teaches that small differences can have large effects....Arts help children say things they can't always verbalize,” she says.

 

Marlene Hanson says the school website says, “BEA empowers their students to reach their full potential. Excellence for all. 'We need the arts program to remain excellent'.”

 

Like Haugh, board member Sheila Ripley says she supports and values the arts, but district officials have to make tough decisions when funding is tight.

 

“We can't ignore the fact we are already deficit spending,” says Ripley. “We have to do something.”

 

Board member Jeremy Coxworth asked if the matter could be tabled until more information is available. The newly elected member is concerned whether changes are proposed for the high school program.

 

“The opportunities for art are going to stay, but they may look a little different," says Gough. "Maintaining opportunities is important."

 

Gough reassured Coxworth that for now no changes will be made at the high school and schedules will be adjusted to accommodate the loss of an instructor.

 

“That wouldn't be my recommendation (to table the matter). You have to put trust in your administrators. They have a job to do,” says Gough. “We're not done, next year we'll have more conversations.”

 

Voting in favor of the resolution to discontinue positions and curtail programs were Haugh, Ripley, Susan Benz and Sara Hauskins, while Coxworth and Amber Patten voted against.

 

Elmore center owes more than $100,000

March 7, 2017

 

An Elmore business wants the owners of a senior living center to pay up.

 

Ehrich Plumbing & Heating Inc. is suing the owners of Elmore Assisted Living & Memory Care Center for $112,275 they still owe for work done at the former YSI Academy building.

 

A civil suit filed in Faribault County District Court names David Olshansky of Golden Valley, who owns Home Health Care Inc. with his brother Roman.

 

According to a court complaint, Ehrich Plumbing installed new water lines, furnaces, air conditioning units, floor tiling, plumbing fixtures and did duct work from November 2014 to January 2016.

 

The complaint says Ehrich Plumbing has agreed to do the work on Olshanky's promise to pay. So far, he has paid $36,000.

 

Several notices requesting payment, says the complaint, were mailed out last April.

 

A court hearing is scheduled to be held March 20 in Blue Earth.

 

When the Elmore care center opened last May, Olshansky said “phase one” will include 50 assisted-living units for 50 to 75 residents.

 

Olshansky said the facility would employ 20 to 25 people when they get to full capacity which was expected to be in 12 months.

 

In addition, “phase two” would be to make the top floors of the facility into senior living apartments.

 

Deputy bitten by dog files civil suit

March 5, 2017

 

Expect the unexpected ---- a warning that most law officers have come to heed while on duty.

 

Faribault County deputy Mark Purvis may have been taken by surprise when responding to a domestic call on May 26 in Walters.

 

A court complaint filed last October says Purvis was bitten by a dog named “Winston” and that the attack was unprovoked.

 

“I believe he missed half of day of work,” says Chief Deputy Scott Adams. “Anything can happen on a call.”

 

As a result of injuries sustained, Purvis is suing Timothy J. Poeppel of Minnesota Lake for damages.

 

Purvis' attorney, Scott Kelly of Mankato, will be asking for a default judgment at a March 20 court hearing in Blue Earth.

 

Because Poeppel has filed to respond to a Purvis' court complaint, court papers say, Kelly wants Judge Darci Benz to rule in favor of his client.

 

The court file says Purivs is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 for medical expenses, attorney fees and any other costs and disbursements.

 

Purvis also is requesting a trial for any issues that may be considered triable.

 

For the record, the court complaint says Winston is a large dog.

 

County waiting to get part of $44,000

February 21, 2017

 

A 29-year-old Minneapolis man being convicted of a drug charge would mean thousands of dollars for two Faribault County agencies.

 

James Earl Super III, 29, was arrested and charged with fifth-degree possession schedule 1,2, 3, 4, a felony. He has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 3.

 

Until then, county officials cannot get a portion of the $44,000 seized on Dec. 8, 2016.

 

Two deputies and K-9 officer Zeus discovered a backpack filled with 50- and 100-dollar bills under the hood of a truck during the traffic stop on Interstate 90.

 

Chief Deputy Scott Adams says once the case is over, the Sheriff's Department will get 70 percent of the money; County Attorney's Office, 20 percent; and the state, 10 percent.

 

“The money will go to the department's seizure fund for our SWAT Team, Drug Task Force and K-9 program. It also will help purchase equipment for squad cars,” says Adams.

 

None of the money, says Adams, will have to be used to offset any costs associated with training Zeus, a 2-year-old German Shepherd. He says the dog's handler and partner, Deputy Brittney Gehrking, used her own money.

 

“I didn't cost Faribault County a dime,” says Adams. “It's outstanding for an employee to do that. She took care of all of it.”

 

Two other men arrested with Super have been convicted of lesser charges.

 

William Anthony Lane Jr., 29, of Brooklyn Park pled guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of falsely giving a peace officer the name of another person and 30-year-old Ronald Lee Hott of Minneapolis was found guilty of a petty misdemeanor marijuana charge.

 

Bago council rejects bids for property

February 15, 2017

 

Winnebago City Council is trying to sell some city-owned property, however, they're not about to give it away.

 

On Tuesday night, council members rejected a bid of $1,000 for a vacant lot located at 435 First Avenue Northwest and another offer of $150,000 for two duplexes.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says a couple from Delavan is interested in moving a rambler house to the First Avenue Northwest property.

 

“It still sticks in my craw we couldn't sell it the first time,” says Councilman Scott Robertson. “I have a problem of trying to hinder someone from coming in and putting a house on it.”

 

The lot was was sold to council member Jean Anderson nearly two years ago for $4,200, but the sale was voided after it was determined to be illegal for violating the state's conflict of interest law.

 

Councilman Rick Johnson says other “buildable lots” in the city have sold for a lot more than $1,000 and perhaps new bids should be accepted.

 

“This is ideal property,” says Johnson. “It ($1,000 bid) seems very, very low to me.”

 

Anderson says the council should wait in hopes of getting a higher bid because she's heard reports that indicate property values are expected to increase 10 percent.

 

“It's great to put the property back on the tax rolls again, but we don't want to set a precedent of setting low property prices in town,” she says.

 

Council members decided to seek new bids until March 13 and are asking a minimum of $4,000.

 

It's not clear when the council will again try to sell the city-owned duplexes.

 

Ziegler says the city owes about $189,000 on the duplexes that have an assessed value of $280,000. He says about $40,000 in reserves have been accumulated from rental of the units.

 

“I don't see why we would sell something for less than what we owe,” says Anderson.

 

Agency to decide if BEA can withhold information

February 10, 2017

 

A state agency will decide if Blue Earth Area School District is illegally withholding public information.

 

Since last October, Tripleanews.com has been trying to obtain payroll information for former third-grade teacher Steven Wood, who resigned at the start of the school year after working out a separation agreement for $19,731.

 

Last May, Wood was arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic assault.

 

He reached a plea bargain of continuance for dismissal, meaning the case will be dropped if there are no probation violations for nine months.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough would not say if Wood was allowed to teach following the incident.

 

Gough and the district's attorney Michelle Kenny have cited the state's Data Practices Act in saying that Wood's employment status is private personnel data.

 

In a Jan. 23 e-mail Gough wrote, “The data you requested is either not maintained by the school district or is classified as private personnel data under Minnesota statutes section 13.43 and is not accessible you.”

 

However a section of the statute says, “payroll time sheets or other comparable data that are only used to account for employee's work time for payroll purposes,” is public information.

 

Taya Moxley-Goldsmith of the Information Policy Analysis Division for the Minnesota Department of Administration (MDA) says the agency will issue an advisory opinion.

 

Moxley-Goldsmith says a letter was e-mailed to Gough asking him and Kenney to provide information.

 

It's expected to take up to 50 days before MDA issues a ruling.

 

If district officials are required to release the payroll information they can choose not to comply. Should that happen, the court system or an administrative law judge may have to force compliance..

 

In addition, the school district could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined for willfully violating the law.

 

County's K-9 aids in bust that nets $44,000 in cash

February 6, 2017

 

Two four-legged, crime-fighting officers may be better than one.

 

Winnebago will the only city in Faribault County that will have a K-9 officer on its police force, but the Sheriff's Department has already put theirs to work.

 

Deputy Zeus has been on duty with his handler and partner Deputy Brittney Gehrking since last October.

 

Last July, the City Council gave Police Chief Eric Olson the go-ahead to buy and have a dog trained for an estimated cost of $10,000.

 

Councilman Scott Robertson says about a week after the council decided to add a “narcotics dog” to the police department, county officials announced they also were getting one.

 

“They kept it underwraps. They were keeping it quiet and I don't know why,” says Robertson.

 

“If they would have told us they were going to have one I don't know if we would still have gotten a dog . We had no clue the county was doing this.”

 

In a radio interview, Gehrking says she purchased Zeus as a pet in 2015 but always wanted to have him trained to be a K-9 officer.

 

Late last June, Gehrking decided to send her dog to a training school for three weeks. And, so far it has paid off for the county.

 

Zeus has been used in about 20 incidents involving sniffing for drugs during traffic stops to inspecting vehicles and lockers at area schools.

 

The biggest bust came during a traffic stop Gehrking made on Interstate 90 last December. She noticed a truck with three occupants weaving from lane to lane and riding on the rumble strips.

 

Gehrking says five suitcases with the odor of marijuana and a baggie were found in the box of the truck. Under the hood there were two backpacks, with one containing about $44,000 in cash.

 

In convincing the council to have a K-9 officer, Olson said the city could work out mutual aid agreement with other cities and charge a fee.

 

Since the county has already used Zeus in Wells and Mapleton, it remains to be seen how much revenue Winnebago will be able to generate.

 

“There's no turning back now,” says Robertson. “As far as I'm concerned, it's full steam ahead.”

 

Bago city-owned lot up for sale again

January 24, 2017

 

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.

 

Agencies pay county nearly $288,000

January 17, 2017

 

Housing out-of-county inmates has turned out to be quite a financial boon for Faribault County.

 

Last year boarding fees totaled $287,806, that's up from the nearly $250,000 in 2015.

 

Chief Deputy Scott Adams says Martin County paid the county $222,950, Freeborn County around $45,000 and the state Department of Corrections just over $20,000.

 

In addition, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and other federal agencies also utilize the 62-bed facility.

 

“Running a jail or anything to do with public safety there is never a profit,” says Adams. “Any revenue we can bring in helps offset that.”

 

Unlike other counties, the chief deputy says the local jail is able to handle female and juvenile prisoners as well as those with medical needs.

 

Before the county built its $12 million jail seven years ago, the Sheriff's Department was spending between $100,000 to $200,000 annually to send its extra prisoners to Martin and Freeborn County and Algona, Iowa.

 

“It's a business, so the more income we have coming in will mean less we'll have to ask from the county for our budget,” Adams says.

 

The Sheriff's Department has an annual budget of nearly $3 million and employs around 55 full- and part-time workers.

 

Adams says the county also earns a profit of about $23,000 from the $50,000 in snacks sold to inmates and about $6,500 from selling them phone cards.

 

He says any money from “commissary” sales must be spent on the inmates for specific reasons.

 

“It's used to upgrade the library and computers. We are required to provide them with certain amount of news so we buy newspapers,” says Adams. “The money also helps pay for them to take their GED test.”

 

Mayor sworn in, project funding hits snag

January 13, 2017

 

Winnebago councilman Rick Johnson's stint as acting-mayor was short-lived.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler didn't wait until next month's City Council meeting to administer the oath of office to re-elected Mayor Jeremiah Schutt.

 

At Tuesday night's council meeting, three council members elected last November were sworn into office, but Schutt was unable to attend due to illness.

 

Ziegler at the time said Schutt would be given the oath in February, meaning Johnson would serve as acting-mayor until then.

 

According to the League of Minnesota Cities handbook, “public officials must take and sign an oath of office before exercising any of their powers.”

 

After being contacted by Tripleanews late Wednesday afternoon, Schutt was given the oath Thursday morning.

 

Council members received an update on a $14 million renovation and acquisition project involving senior care facilities in Winnebago, Wells and Truman.

 

Council member Jean Anderson says Heartland Senior Living's $7 million loan application with USDA to purchase the facilities from ElderCare of Minnesota has hit a snag.

 

Anderson asked the council to again sign a letter of support for the Heartland project so it could be sent to the USDA.

 

“We want local ownership,” says Anderson. “In the three communities it would mean an annual payroll of about $3.6 million and 174 jobs.”

 

Heartland, a non-profit organization comprised of city leaders of each community, will be seeking additional funding from a financial institution.

 

Anderson says Heartland expects to receive $5 million by the end of June to buy the three assisted-living centers from Jim and Kathy Birchem of Little Falls.

 

When asked what the future holds for Genesis Classical Academy, a non-denominational Christian school located in the north end of Parker Oaks, Anderson says, “It's been proven that having seniors and youngsters together is a win-win situation.”

 

Who is in charge in Winnebago?

January 12, 2017

 

Who's the mayor of Winnebago? That may be a matter of interpretation, for now.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler gave the oath of office to incumbents Rick Johnson and Jean Anderson and newcomer Paul Eisenmenger.

 

Jeremiah Schutt, who was re-elected to another two-year term, however, was not able to attend Tuesday night's meeting due to illness.

 

Ziegler says Schutt will be given the oath at the next City Council meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 14.

 

Johnson, who is the senior council member, conducted the meeting in Schutt's absence and is the acting-mayor whenever he is not available.

 

City Attorney David Frundt says although Schutt has not taken the oath, he believes Schutt still has the authority to serve as mayor.

 

“I have never has this issue occur before, so I have not researched it,” says Frundt. “Mayor Schutt does not need to take the oath at a public meeting.”

 

According to the League of Minnesota Cities handbook, the candidate qualifying for office must take the oath and sign a copy of the oath in the presence of the administering offical.

 

“It (the oath) can be administered at any time by a city official, but is usually done at a public event for publicity,” says Frundt.

 

The League handbook says, “public officials must take and sign an oath of office before exercising any of their powers.”

 

Johnson and Anderson were elected to four-year terms, while Eisenmenger will serve two years.

 

And, Johnson may unknowingly be serving as mayor.

 

Settlement reach in case involving priest

January 6, 2017

 

A personal injury lawsuit filed against a former priest at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth and St. Mary's Catholic Church in Winnebago has been settled.

 

In fact, an agreement in the case involving a female minor was reached more than one year ago in September 2015.

 

However, attorneys from both sides aren't releasing any financial details and the court file has been sealed.

 

In June 2013, Father Leo Charles Koppala was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal conduct following an alleged incident on June 7 with an 11-year-old girl in Blue Earth.

 

Koppala, who was 47 years old at the time, was convicted in March 2014 and two months later deported to his native country of India.

 

According to court documents in Winona County, a civil suit was filed on April 28, 2014, against Koppala and the Diocese of Winona by a guardian of Doe 32.

 

Throughout the case proceedings Koppala did not attend any scheduling conferences because his exact whereabouts were unknown.

 

“I do not have contact information for Mr. Koppala,” says Thomas Braun, an attorney for the Diocese and Koppala. “However, I am aware that he's living somewhere in the country of India.”

 

A hearing to consider a settlement was scheduled in August 2015, but attorneys for the plaintiff argued she should not be subjected to additional trauma and has good cause to waive an appearance.

 

“The minor plaintiff struggles with intrusive thoughts, anger and ruminative thinking,” the attorneys wrote in a letter to the court.

 

“It is our position that the minor plaintiff's presence at the hearing will only subject her to increased emotional distress, exacerbating to her existing injuries.”

 

Judge Nancy Buytendorp approved the settlement on Sept. 1 and dismissed the case with prejudice on Oct. 9, 2015.

 

Weerts may be moving company soon

December 28, 2016

 

Another large, long-time Winnebago employer may be re-locating soon.

 

“For sale” signs have been placed in front of buildings on Main Street that are owned by businessman Bob Weerts.

 

Weerts, owner and president of Weerts Companies, says he is selling all of his 11 commercial properties located within the city.

 

According to Weerts, he has been considering moving his office for Blue Valley Sod and Erosion Control Plus the past three months.

 

“I think the property taxes are going to get too high,” says Weerts. “The city keeps spending money like they have a lot of it.”

 

For now, Weerts plans to re-locate outside the city but doesn't have a specific site.

 

“I'm selling first before I move. If I sell the shop and office I'll have to leave right away,” he says.

 

Weerts also owns and operates the Shell Food Mart in Blue Earth. In total, his companies employ between 20 and 50 full- and part-time workers.

 

When asked whether he would move his businesses completely out of the area, Weerts says, “Not at this time, but you never know. I could move from here very easily.”

 

Ziegler gets good evaluation, pay hike

December 19, 2016

 

Winnebago's city administrator and members of the City Council met behind closed doors Tuesday night to discuss his job performance.

 

After 25 minutes in closed-session the meeting was re-opened to the public and the results were clear. Chris Ziegler passed with flying colors.

 

I look forward to staying around for at least another year,” Ziegler joked after being told he would receive a 3 percent salary increase.

 

Ziegler was evaluated in 11 areas on a 10-point system and earned an average score of 7.3 from the council.

 

Thank you for the positive feedback,” Ziegler told council members.

 

Mayor Jeremiah Schutt says achieving goals and setting priorities were discussed.

 

We looked at all the pros and cons and the whole evaluation,” says Schutt.

 

The Planning Committee recommended Ziegler, who celebrated his four-year anniversary on Dec. 4, should be paid $62,046 annually.

 

In other business, the council approved using some of the Sewer Fund's $430,000 in reserves to purchase a building from Kaduce Plumbing.

 

The facility will cost $290,000 and be the new home of the Public Works Department.

 

Ziegler says Public Works will own 25 percent of the building and the remaining $217,500 will be paid back over 10 years at an interest rate of 2 percent.

 

Council members also approved the 2017 budget tax levy at $585,344, a 3.55 percent hike over last year.

 

Ziegler initially presented a tax levy with an increase of 9 percent, but that was not acceptable to Councilman Rick Johnson.

 

We are going to buy a building, it's too high for my blood,” says Johnson. “I'd like to see it around 4 percent. I think we can get buy without cranking up taxes too much.”

 

The council trimmed $8,000 from the library fund, $5,000 from the ambulance department, $5,000 for maintenance at the Municipal Center and $10,000 to purchase a squad car reduce the levy.

 

Political yard sign makes resurrection

December 6, 2016

 

It's been a month since the Nov. 8 general election and there are still remnants that remind us which candidate we did or did not vote for.

 

Some weathered political yard signs are beginning to rip and topple over.

 

As you drive west on County Road 10 and enter Huntley, there's a small orange, blue and white sign on the right side of the road.

 

It's for a candidate who didn't even get a single vote on election day ------ his name wasn't on the ballot.

 

The words on the sign read, “We need Henry Kalis as our state representative.”

 

“My son comes up from Florida to help farmers and stays at the house,” says Diana Robertson. “He saw it in the garage and I guess to be mischievous decided to put it up.”

 

Kalis was first elected in 1974 and served in the Legislature for 28 years, representing portions of Faribault, Blue Earth, Martin, Freeborn and Waseca counties.

 

For the past two years, Violet Kalis says her husband has been battling Alzheimer's and now resides at Prairie Senior Cottage Care Center in Albert Lea.

 

Known as a strong voice for farmers, agricultural and transportation issues, Henry has difficulty speaking and remembering.

 

“It would make Henry feel good just knowing someone may think of him when they see the sign,” says Violet. “Some people still appreciate all the work he did while he was there.”

 

Kalis was serving as a Faribault County commissioner when he was encouraged to run for the state Legislature.

 

John Huisman, who was chairman of the Faribault County Democrat Party at the time, says Kalis was recruited because he was young and had many good ideas.

 

“A man of such modesty and so dedicated to serving the citizens, to see him now really pulls on your heart,” says Huisman.

 

Kalis earned the distinction of being the first legislative candidate to file for office each year that he ran.

 

His reason for doing this was, simply: “I enjoy this job and I think when you like something you should show people you like it.”

 

Violet says Henry often arrived at the Secretary of State's Office in St. Paul early the morning of or even later in the day before the opening date for filing.

 

“It got to be an overnight thing,” says Violet. “I didn't sleep there with him, but I'd bring him food.”

 

On Nov. 28, the Kalises celebrated 57 years of marriage.

 

Violet spent the afternoon that day talking with Henry about their wedding day and their honeymoon to Colorado.

 

“He listened and I had him laughing. So part of me thinks he took in what I was telling him,” she says.

 

On March 2, Henry will turn 80 years old and four days later Violet will be 77.

 

Henry ranks among the longest-serving legislators from southern Minnesota in the state's history.

 

He may not remember his time as a public servant, but there are many who will never forget.

 

Man charged with burglaries in prison

November 23, 2016

 

Faribault County will have to get a 21-year-old man out of prison to face nine felony counts of burglary and theft.

 

Levi Troy Dahl of Dalton earlier this month was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a probation violation stemming from a second-degree burglary charge filed September 2015 in Freeborn County.

 

Last September, Dahl was charged with two counts of first-degree, second-degree and third-degree burglary and three counts of felony theft.

 

According to Faribault County authorities, more than $16,000 in guns, cash and items were stolen in the break-ins that occurred between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6.

 

Dahl was arrested following a high-speed chase that reached 60 mph in Albert Lea.

 

An officer reportedly recognized the vehicle he was driving as the one that may have been used in the burglaries from video provided by Faribault County Sheriff's Office.

 

County Attorney Troy Timmerman says a date will be set for Dahl's hearing and he will then prepare a writ for Judge Douglas Richards to sign for his release.

 

“Dahl has filed a request to have his pending cases heard,” says Timmerman. “He will have the same hearings as any defendant. I don't know if he will want a plea or a trial.”

 

An arrest warrant was issued in Faribault County after Dahl failed to appear for a court appearance on Sept. 26.

 

In Freeborn County, Dahl still faces charges of criminal vehicular operation, felony fleeing a peace officer, driving while intoxicated and driving after suspension.

 

Dahl escaped from custody on Sept. 16 while in Rochester for medical treatment. He was captured in the Los Angeles area five days later.

 

Last July, Dahl pleaded guilty to fifth-degree drug possession in Martin County.

 

Machete-waving man to appear in court

November 12, 2016

 

A 29-year-old Wells man charged and arrested after allegedly waving a machete at people last October is scheduled to appear in court Monday in Blue Earth.

 

Justin Phillip Crowe faces charges of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and obstructing the legal process.

 

Crowe's hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in Faribault County District Court. He faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a $14,000 fine.

 

According to a criminal complaint, a Wells officer on Oct. 22 met three people at a residence after responding to a report of a man waving a machete and hacking a nearby power pole.

 

The officer described the people as appearing scared and upset.

 

The group said that they been outside and that man did not speak to them but withdrew and waved at them a machete-type knife about 2 feet long.

 

Court documents say the man began hacking into a power pole he was standing by before walking away.

 

While driving down an alley the officer spotted Crowe carrying what appeared to be a machete.

 

Crowe reportedly entered a garage after the officer told him that he wanted to talk with him.

 

The officer approached the garage, says the court complaint, and he heard two voice speaking inside and observed a silhouette of a man swinging a knife at the ceiling through a door.

 

After the officer backed up his squad car, says the complaint, the garage door opened and Crowe and Jose Ruiz walked out.

 

Court documents say Crowe told the officer, “I am going to take you,” and took a few steps at him before the officer used his Taser.

 

Crowe was arrested with the assistance of the Faribault County Sheriff's Office.

 

Ruiz also was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, and authorities seized the machete.

 

Bago hires N.D. firm to collect EDA loan

November 10, 2016

 

Winnebago City Council has decided to pay a North Dakota law firm several thousands of dollars to collect a past due Economic Development Authority loan of more than $57,000.

 

Council members voted Monday night to pay Olson & Burns, P.C., of Minot, N.D., a retainer fee of $4,000 to begin a mortgage foreclosure.

 

I'll get to work on it right away,” City Attorney David Frundt told council members.

 

Last year, the EDA approved a $60,000 loan for Fredonia & Luella's Seafood Restaurant to be located at the former Tasty Treatz site on South Main Street,

 

For more than six months a sign in front of the building touted that seafood would be “coming soon” to the city.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says the EDA loan was to be used for operating expenses and any improvements needed to the building

 

Ziegler says one of the owners, Nancy Delmaire, used land she inherited in North Dakota as collateral. He told council members a realtor recently appraised value of the property at $62,000.

 

Balance of the Fredonia loan is $57,279 and it is past due. The last payment was made on July 8.

 

Ziegler says Delmaire and Glenn Abbott also obtained a loan from First Financial Bank in Winnebago for the property, house, business building, fixtures and equipment.

 

Bill Erickson, president of First Financial, would not say if the bank loaned the couple any money and if any collection efforts are under way.

 

If I had anything to offer on this subject, I couldn't due to confidentiality and private policy requirements,” says Erickson.

 

In other business, the council approved issuing bonds to purchase two buildings from Kaduce Plumbing for $290,000.

 

The buildings are located just outside of the city north on Highway 169 and will be used by the Public Works Department.

 

Ziegler says the current building used to store street, water and sewer department equipment does not provide adequate space.

 

BEA should release payroll information

November 7, 2016

 

Blue Earth Area School District officials aren't making it easy to find out if a former third-grade teacher was allowed to work after being charged with misdemeanor domestic assault.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough and the district attorney's, Michelle Kenney, have denied requests from Tripleanews.com to obtain time card information or other data the district uses for payroll purposes.

 

On May 16, Steven Wood was arrested at his home Winnebago after a police officer responded to a 911 call.

 

In addition to the criminal charge, Gough has said school officials were investigating a written complaint filed by someone within the district.

 

Gough says he's unable to release information regarding Wood's employment hours from May 16 to the end of the school year.

 

He says the payroll information requested is private personnel data that is protected under state's Data Practices Act, section 13.43

 

“The data you request is not accessible to you,” says Kenney. “Dr. Gough's response was appropriate.”

 

But, an official with the Minnesota Department Administration says district officials must provide the data.

 

“That payroll timesheet data are public pursuant to the provision that you cited and you should be able to receive access,” says Taya Moxley-Goldsmith, of the Information Policy Analysis Division.

 

“Have the district contact me if they have questions about that provision,” she adds.

 

During their monthly meeting, School Board members unanimously accepted Steven Wood's letter of resignation effective Sept. 12. They also approved a separation agreement to pay him $19,731.

 

In a plea bargain, Wood agreed to a continuance for dismissal.

 

That means the case has been put on hold for nine months with conditions that he have no same or similar assaultive behavior and pay a $585 fine. He faced a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

Former JWP coach strikes plea deal

November 3, 2016

 

A former Janesville basketball coach and choir teacher who filmed naked boys in a locker room using a disguised camera has reached a plea deal with Faribault County prosecutors.

 

According to a criminal complaint filed in June, Zachary Patrick Roberts, 28, was charged with four felony counts of interfering with the privacy of a minor and four felony counts of stalking a minor with sexual or aggressive intent.

 

During a pre-trial hearing held Monday, County Attorney Troy Timmerman says Roberts agreed to plea guilty at a Nov. 28 hearing to three counts of interfering with the privacy of a minor and one count of stalking a minor with sexual or aggressive intent.

 

Timmerman says he discussed the plea agreement with family members of the victims and gave their approval.

 

“The plea accomplishes almost everything, in terms of a sentence, that the defendant would have received had we proceeded to trial and he were convicted of all counts,” Timmerman says.

 

A court complaint says the case came to light on Dec. 14, 2015, when the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (JWP) boys basketball team played a game against United South Central at Wells.

 

After the game, the JWP team went into the locker room to shower and change before returning home.

 

One of the players was looking for a pen to write down a play and got one from the gym bag belonging to Roberts, their coach. According to the complaint, the player realized the pen was actually a camera.

 

The players tried to view the files in the camera, but were unable. School officials were alerted and started an internal investigation.

 

Roberts agreed to turn the camera over to school authorities, who then gave it to the Janesville Police Department.

 

The complaint says Police Chief Dave Ulmen viewed the files and found “significant evidence” on two.

 

The first file was 15 minutes and included footage of the pen camera being placed and manipulated, says the court complaint, so it was focused on the entrance to the showers. The complaint says unclothed boys were seen going in and out of the shower.

 

The second file also included footage of unclothed boys and lasted 13 minutes. Near the end of it, says the complaint, video shows the players discovering the camera.

 

Ulmen was able to identify four of the JWP players in the footage, who were 14 and 15 years old.

 

During an interview on Dec. 24, Roberts told authorities be bought the camera to film boys in the locker room.

 

The court complaint says Roberts admitted he done this 40 to 50 times in the past and “he would then use the videos for self-sexual gratification.”

 

Janesville police also seized a “significant number” of other electronics from Roberts, including flash drives, digital cameras, external hard-drives, a laptop and a cellphones.

 

Ulmen says the devices were analyzed but they did not contain any incriminating material.

 

Roberts, a Janesville native, worked as a choir teacher at JWP High School for six years, served as a student council adviser and helped direct musicals and show choir for the district. He also was a youth coordinator for St. Ann Catholic Church in Janesville.

 

On the interfering with the privacy of minor charges, Roberts faces a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each count and 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for the stalking a minor with sexual or aggressive intent.
 

Fired deputy able to keep his license

October 30, 2016

 

Despite pointing a loaded weapon at co-workers, a former Faribault County deputy will be able to keep his license to be a peace officer.

 

That's according to Sheryl Waddick, a standards coordinator for the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).

 

Shane Dulac was fired in October 2015 and filed an appeal. But, an arbitrator agreed with the county that Dulac had violated several department policies.

 

“Typically if it is a policy violation we aren't involved,” Waddick says. “Most of the time we have any authority over a licensee is when a crime has been committed or for certain levels of crime. It's not for everything under the book.”

 

Waddick says the POST board generally does not conduct a background check when a law officer renews their license, which is done every three years.

 

In addition to paying a $90 fee, an applicant must obtain 48 credits to maintain certification.

 

“He (Dulac) hasn't been charged with any crime or convicted of anything,” Waddick says. “Obviously, if he tries to get another job people will do a background check and look into his past employment history.”

 

In an internal affairs complaint, Gormley summarized the policy violations as:

  • conduct unbecoming of an officer by pointing a loaded gun at someone without cause or reason;

  • created a dangerous and hostile work environment by making other deputies feel uneasy and fearful to be around him;

  • misuse of equipment by not following safety standards and training taught annually;

  • and by inflicting unwanted harassment and hazing type behavior.

 

Gormley contacted two county agencies to investigate six gun-pointing incidents involving four deputies that occurred between 2007 and 2014.

 

The Dakota County Attorney's Office did not file charges following a criminal investigation. However, Wright County Lt. Annette Habisch-Peterson concluded that Dulac violated several county policies.

 

According to Peterson, Dulac's conduct was unbecoming an officer and “created a dangerous and hostile work environment.”

 

Board questions Italy trip, tables request

October 23, 2016

 

A Blue Earth Area High School teacher has some explaining to do before the School Board lets her and some students go to Italy.

 

Language Arts teacher Ingrid Chrisman was suppose to give a report on the 10-day trip at a recent board meeting, but she was unable to attend due to illness.

 

Instead, Superintendent Evan Gough filled in and says Chrisman was going to hold a meeting with students and parents to see if there's enough interest in the trip.

 

“At least five students are needed to sign up,” says Gough. “It's exposing them to a culture, rather than reading about it.”

 

For some on the board, this is the first time they had heard anything about the trip.

 

“I don't like surprises,” says board chair Frankie Bly. “To me this should have come to us at our September meeting.”

 

Another shocker for district officials was the trip's price tag of more than $4,300.

 

“I have concern over the cost. We want every student to be on the same playing field and not separate the haves and have nots,” Gough says. “I'm really struggling with the cost.”

 

High school principal Rich Schneider says each student and their parents will be responsible for the full cost and no money from district fund-raisers will be used.

 

Board members don't doubt the trip would be a valuable experience, but they still want to know more details before giving their approval.

 

Students may also obtain three college credits by going on the trip, but board member Dawn Fellows says more information is needed on the type of credits that will be earned.

 

A request to approve the trip was tabled and the board is expected to discuss the issue again at its November meeting.

 

In the past, BEA students have gone on trips to Washington, D.C., and the Spanish class to Costa Rica or Puerto Rico, costing around $800 and $2,000 respectively.

 

Bago restaurant reopens, store for sale

October 22, 2016

 

It seems that business on Main Street in Winnebago is anything but usual.

 

After being closed for several weeks, Cuquita Tex Mex has re-opened and is offering customers a full menu and a couple of nights to enjoy karaoke entertainment.

 

While that's good news, a business that has been serving area residents for more than 75 years is on the market.

 

Local residents may have been surprised when they saw a realtor's “for sale” poster on the outside south wall of Roerig Hardware.

 

Owner Steve Malchow says about a month ago he sent out letters to customers with an open account.

 

“I didn't want people panicking when they saw the sign on the building,” he says. “We're going to stay open until it sells. We are not closing.”

 

Malchow has owned the business for nine years, having worked there for 15 years before purchasing it from Herb Pederson.

 

While Malchow doesn't know what the future holds, he and his wife, Val, do not have any plans on moving.

 

“We're pretty settled here,” he says. “I don't know what I'll do. I never imagined doing anything else.”

 

On another matter, City Administrator Chris Ziegler hinted at a recent council meeting that there may be some good business news soon.

 

“There are a couple of economic development things going on, but I can't talk about them much right now,” Ziegler told council members.

 

Ziegler says hopefully he will have an update to share with the council at the November meeting.

 

'No meeting, no pay' practice clarified

October 15, 2016

 

It's been a common practice that probably shouldn't have been occurring.

 

Winnebago City Council members have been docked a month's pay whenever they miss a regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

 

But, that's going to change thanks to Councilman Rick Johnson.

 

At Tuesday's meeting, Johnson asked City Administrator Chris Ziegler and City Attorney David Frundt to clarify whether a council member's salary can be reduced.

 

“To me getting a salary means you get paid, even if you miss a meeting,” Johnson says. “You still do all the work, making phone calls and going to committee meetings.”

 

Council members are assigned to various committees and attend meetings, however, they do not get paid.

 

Johnson serves on the finance, personnel, utility and emergency services committees, as well as the firefighters relief association.

 

Reading from a manual, Ziegler referred to an ordinance passed in October 2000 to set compensation for the council. And, Frundt offered his legal interpretation.

 

“I don't think deductions for not attending (council) meetings is authorized,” says Frundt. “There has to be an ordinance to do that and I don't think it does.”

 

Currently, council members earn an annual salary of $1,800 and the mayor is paid $2,400 a year.

 

Their salaries are divided by 12 to arrive at a monthly amount and they are paid twice a year, in June and December.

 

Sheriff: Deputies victims of bullying

October 11, 2016

 

Disgusting. Shocking.

 

Those are two words Faribault County Sheriff Mike Gormley used to describe the pointing of a loaded weapon by a deputy who was fired.

 

Revelations of Shane Dulac pointing his pistol at a deputy while in the Sheriff's Office surfaced on May 2015 after being placed on paid leave pending an investigation into another unrelated incident.

 

Gormley filed an internal affairs complaint and two outside investigators found that Dulac had pointed a gun at four deputies on six separate occasions.

 

“It's the worst case in bullying you can have,” says Gormley. “It's that whole culture of being afraid to say something.”

 

When asked whether the deputies should be disciplined for not reporting the gun-pointing, Gormley says, “How do you punish a victim?”

 

While the deputies did not disobey any department policies, but Dulac violated four:

  • conduct unbecoming of an officer by pointing a loaded gun at someone without cause or reason;

  • created a dangerous and hostile work environment by making other deputies feel uneasy and fearful to be around him;

  • misuse of equipment by not following safety standards and training taught annually;

  • and by inflicting unwanted harassment and hazing type behavior.

 

One incident occurred in 2007, while there were two in 2009 and one in 2012, 2014 and 2015. And according to results of the investigations, three of the deputies were newly hired at the time.

 

Deputies within the department, says Gormley, have been told to always take any concerns they may have to their supervisors.

 

“I guarantee you it's never going to happen again,” he says. “I'm 100 percent certain of that.”

 

Businesses of multi-million dollar   corporations may receive grant

October 8, 2016

 

It's hard to say no to free money.

 

A grant program is helping owners of commercial buildings in Blue Earth pay for exterior improvements and upgrades.

 

And, even businesses that are part of multi-million dollar corporations are eligible for funding.

 

Recently, the city's Economic Development Authority approved four grants through the Commercial Building Exterior Improvement Grant (CBEIG).

 

Getting money for their projects were Blue Earth Custom Embroidery, $2,925; Blue Earth American Legion, $1,548; Rainbow Food Co-op, $793; and the Faribault County Register, $563.

 

The Register is owned by Ogden Newspapers Inc., headquartered in Wheeling, W. Va.

 

Ogden Newspapers operates 40 daily newspapers in 14 states and also publishes multiple weeklies and magazines.

 

Robert Nutting, president and CEO of Ogden Newspapers, also owns the Pittsburgh Pirates and Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania.

 

The net worth of the Nutting family has been reported at $1.1 billion, with Ogden Newspapers accounting for $630 million of the fortune.

 

So, why would the Register need to seek a grant to repair rotted wooden hand rails located at the rear entrance of its building?

 

Attempts to contact Ogden chief financial officer Duane Wittman for a comment were unsuccessful.

 

Tim Clawson, executive director of Faribault County Development Corporation, says his recommendation to approve funding for the four projects was not based on economic need.

 

Under the CBEIG program, primary consideration is given to projects that improve safety and are necessary to maintain the integrity of the structure.

 

Secondary consideration is given to repairs that improve the building's exterior appearance.

 

The grant amount covers 50 percent of the project's cost up to a maximum of $10,000 per building in a 12-month period.

 

Based on the program's eligibility criteria, businesses such as McDonald's or

Walmart could receive a grant.

 

“Any business within the Blue Earth corporate limits can apply,” says Clawson. “Any application that meets program requirements could be approved. The EDA board has the final say.”

 

Fairmont man charged in           burglaries to miss court hearing

September 26, 2016

 

A 21-year-old Fairmont man facing nine felony counts in connection with two burglaries in Faribault County will miss a court hearing.

 

Levi Troy Dahl, who is facing charges in Freeborn County resulting from a high-speed chase, has been captured after escaping from custody earlier this month while in Rochester for medical treatment.

 

According to news reports, Dahl was arrested in the Los Angeles area on Sept. 21. Details about what led to the arrest are not available.

 

Dahl was scheduled to make his first court appearance today in Blue Earth for two counts of first-degree burglary; two counts of second-degree burglary; two counts of third-degree burglary; and three counts of theft.

 

Faribault County Sheriff Mike Gormley says he doesn't know when Freeborn County authorities will go to California to get Dahl.

 

Dahl reportedly escaped from custody on Sept. 16 when he cut off his ankle bracelet after being released from Freeborn County Jail for surgery on a broken leg in Rochester.

 

Authorities say Dahl left Mayo Clinic before surgery was completed and the GPS bracelet was found at a Rochester Walmart.

 

In Freeborn County, Dahl has pleaded not guilty charges of fleeing a peace officer and one count of reckless driving in a chase that reportedly reached speeds of 60 mph.

 

Dahl did not stop when an officer on patrol, according to Albert Lea police, noticed the white 2006 Chevrolet Malibu he was driving may have been used in the burglaries.

 

Faribault County authorities say Dahl and 34-year-old Ryan Alan Jensen of Fairmont stolen more than $16,000 in guns, cash and items in the burglaries that occurred between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6.

 

Jensen faces the same charges as Dahl and made his initial appearance in court last week.

 

Arbitrator rules in favor of county in Dulac case

September 25, 2016

 

A former Faribault County deputy has lost his fight to have his termination last October overturned.

 

In a 16-page ruling, arbitrator Stephen F. Befort of the Bureau of Mediation Services denied Shane Dulac's claim that he was fired without just cause.

 

Befort's decision comes 11 months after Dulac filed a grievance with his union. And, Sheriff Mike Gormley says getting the case finally resolved is a relief.

 

“Oh my god, yes! It's been a long process,” he says. “I thought we made the right decision based on the facts we knew.”

 

Gormley adds, “As law enforcement officers we are held to a higher standard in the public eye and I hold our people to that same standard.”

 

Dulac was fired for an incident that occurred the evening of March 26, 2015, at the Derby Inn Bar in Guckeen while he was off-duty and for pointing a loaded gun at four fellow deputies on six different occasions.

 

While at the Derby Inn, Dulac and three female employees of the Faribault-Martin County Human Services Department were having drinks when a man named Joe entered the bar.

 

After having a drink, the man reportedly displayed two Vicodin pills and offered to give them to anyone who would buy him a beer.

 

According to the three Human Services employees, Dulac suggested that they should make the trade so he could arrest the man.

 

Dulac denies making the request and testified during six days of arbitration hearings that he would contact an on-duty deputy to arrest Joe.

 

Later that night, one of the Human Services employees showed Dulac two Vicodin pills and explained she had obtained them from Joe in exchange for buying him a beer.

 

Dulac reportedly was shocked the employee had actually made the trade and told her to contact Chief Deputy Scott Adams the next morning to turn over the pills and tell him about the incident.

 

On April 3, Adams and the employee met and she told him that Dulac had encouraged a trade for the tablets. Gormley later that day placed Dulac on paid leave pending an investigation into the incident.

 

Gormley contacted Watonwan County to conduct a criminal investigation of the Derby Inn incident, but the county attorney decided not to pursue charges.

 

Following the criminal investigation, Gormley filed an internal affairs complaint against Dulac and contacted the Worthington Police Department to look into the matter.

 

Detective Dave Hoffman issued a report finding Dulac had engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer by enlisting participation of Human Services employees in a plan to obtain controlled substance pills from a criminal suspect.

 

Dulac also improperly handled evidence, says Hoffman, by failing to secure the pills.

 

Befort says the Human Services employees may have mistakenly interpreted Dulac's “if he shows you something, I can arrest him” comment as a request to buy the man a drink in exchange for the pills.

 

“While Dulac exercised poor judgment by playing undercover detective while off-duty in a bar, it is not clear he directly engineered the unlawful barter,” says Befort.

 

Befort agrees with the county that Dulac failed to secure the pills as evidence of criminal behavior in a timely manner to obtain a search warrant.

 

“While that misstep warrants discipline, it is not substantial by itself to justify immediate discharge,” he says. “Accordingly, if this was the only misconduct at issue, I would not sustain the discharge penalty.”

 

During a firearms qualification exercise held May 2015, Deputy Chris Albers told the range instructors that two months earlier Dulac had pointed his loaded gun at him while they were in the sheriff's office.

 

When the gun-pointing incident was reported to Gormley, three deputies came forward with allegations that Dulac also had pointed a loaded weapon at them. The incidents occurred between 2007 and 2014.

 

The Dakota County Attorney's Office did not file charges following a criminal investigation. However, Wright County Lt. Annette Habisch-Peterson concluded that Dulac violated several county policies.

 

Peterson says Dulac's conduct was unbecoming an officer and “created a dangerous and hostile work environment.”

 

During Peterson's investigation, several deputies said they thought Dulac was joking around and they did not feel threatened by his actions. At the arbitration hearings, however, the deputies reported being fearful of Dulac and opposed his return to the force.

 

Two deputies said they no longer trusted Dulac and would resign if he returned to work while another said she would be “terrified” if he were back on duty. The union contends the deputies' testimony was “the result of coaching.”

 

In a Notice of Intent to Terminate Employment dated Sept. 28, 2015, Gormley alleged the gun-pointing incidents, “made deputies and other officers uneasy and fearful to be around you.”

 

Dulac's attorney Isaac Kaufman says his client did not intend to harm or threaten anyone and engaged the deputies with a playful or joking manner.

 

Kaufman argues county officials should have taken “progressive discipline” measures . He says Dulac should have been put on notice and given a chance to stop his unacceptable behavior

 

Befort says Gormley and Adams were unaware of the gun-pointing incidents, but took immediate action when learning about them.

 

Warnings and a pattern of increasing discipline, he says, are not required in instances of severe misconduct.

 

“Thus, an employer need not use progressive discipline when an employee commits serious misconduct such as theft or violence,” he says. “The same is true with respect to a law enforcement officer who points a loaded weapon at a co-worker.”

 

During the arbitration hearings, Dulac expressed remorse and took full responsibility for his actions.

 

Kaufman says Dulac is unlikely to repeat his gun-pointing behavior if reinstated, but county officials argue that his remorse is “too little and too late.”

 

Befort doesn't doubt that Dulac is sorry for his actions, however, he believes that because of his past conduct other deputies have lost trust in his rehabilitation.

 

“Under those circumstances, I do not think that even genuine remorse is sufficient to repair the relationship between Deputy Dulac and the Faribault County Sheriff's Office. I find that the county has carried its burden to show that discharge is an appropriate remedy in this case,” he says.

 

Testing: Lead levels high in 3 BEA water fixtures

September 22, 2016

 

Last year, three water fixtures at Blue Earth Area schools exceeded the national standard for lead.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for no more than 20 parts per billion of lead in drinking water.

 

But, testing conducted in May show a faucet and fountain at the Blue Earth Area Elementary School kitchen had lead levels of 61.1 and 35.4 respectively, while a lobby fountain at Winnebago Elementary School had a level of 21.1.

 

Approaching the 20 ppb threshold with a level of 17.5 ppb was a sink located in the Community Education Office at the BEA Elementary School.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough says the testing was conducted by IEA of Mankato and Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories , Inc., of New Ulm at a cost of $2,100.

 

“The issues were resolved by flushing or fixture replacement,” he says. “It was a priority and we addressed the issues as soon as results were available to us.

 

To help ensure acceptable lead levels, Gough says, maintenance and custodial staff run water fixtures for one minutes or longer every morning.


Among water testing records of more than 600 schools, according to new reports, at least one of every four of those schools are not testing based on the Minnesota Department of Health's recommendation.

 

 

The state health department suggests that schools test each tap or fixture providing drinking water or water for food preparation for lead every five years.

 

Gough says the district complies with the state's testing guidelines, which are voluntarily.

 

Records show testing at some Minnesota schools hasn't been done since the late 1990s.

 

While municipal water systems are tested for lead, state health officials suggest that schools test due to possible sources of lead inside their plumbing.

 

According to the EPA, when lead enters the water system, it’s most often from lead solder used on brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures.

 

Zierkes get city's blessing

September 16, 2016

 

Winnebago city leaders will give the owners of Zierke Built Mfg (ZBM), Inc., a letter supporting the company's move to Fairmont.

 

But, the vote to do so at Tuesday's City Council meeting wasn't unanimous.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says the city Economic Development Authority recently met and all board members felt the city should not object to the Zierkes' relocation.

 

“I don't think we should drag it on much longer. We should give them a release letter without conditions,” says Ziegler.

 

Obtaining the letter will allow the Zierkes to seek state funding and other tax breaks once they relocate.

 

In the past, the council has debated whether to sign a letter in exchange for an option agreement to purchase one of the company's buildings.

 

City officials also have discussed pursuing payment of taxes not paid on ZBM buildings while the company was on the state's JOBZ program since 2004.

 

“Even though it is a tough pill to swallow, we aren't in any position to stop these people to improve their company by the move,” says Councilman Scott Robertson.

 

However, Councilman Rick Johnson wasn't too eager to give his support.

 

“I wasn't very positive about it,” says Johnson. “They received tax benefits over the 12 years they were on JOBZ. Now they are going to Plan B and and will do it again.”

 

Under the JOBZ program, Zierke Built did not have to pay sales or corporate income taxes and property taxes to the county, city and school district. In addition, the company received numerous smaller tax taxes.

 

The tax-free benefits ended at the start of 2016 and seven months later ZBM officials announced the company was moving to Fairmont.

 

Kyle Zierke and his father, Greg, attended the meeting and again expressed that deciding to leave the city was a tough decision.

 

“We appreciate all Winnebago has done. All of the city administrators and everyone have been top shelf,” says Greg Zierke. “Sometimes you have to move on to the next step. It doesn't make business sense to stay.”

 

The Zierkes say they have been discussing expansion of the company for several years.

 

They say the current facilities aren't adequate and upgrading them would be too costly. Also, a limited workforce is making it difficult to hire skilled welders.

 

Ziegler says city officials don't want the ZBM buildings to sit empty too long and hope the buyer will provide much needed jobs. The Zierkes agree and vow to work with the city to sell the property as soon as possible.

 

Wood resigns, agrees to settlement with district

September 13, 2016

 

A Blue Earth Area elementary teacher prosecuted for misdemeanor domestic assault has resigned and will receive a settlement payment of more than $19,000.

 

On Monday night, School Board members unanimously accepted Steven Wood's letter of resignation effective Sept. 12 and approved a separation agreement to pay him $19,731.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough in the past has said the district received a complaint regarding Wood and it was investigated. He refused to give any details.

 

“I can't say anything that isn't in the separation agreement,” says Gough.

 

He would not comment on terms of the settlement nor provide clarification regarding claims Wood made against the district.

 

An eight-page copy of the agreement was given to the media and also can be found in the board packet located on the district's web page.

 

The agreement says money paid by the district is for consideration of Wood's resignation and settlement of any or all disputed claims.

 

Wood calls the settlement, “a full and fair payment” and agrees not to file any lawsuits, charges, complaints, grievances or seek additional money. He may still be able to file for unemployment benefits.

 

In the agreement, Wood says he is receiving valuable consideration from the School District to give up all his claims for violations of:

* Minnesota Human Rights Act;

* Age Discrimination in Employment Act;

* contract the district has with the teachers union, Blue Earth Area Education Association; as well as numerous other violations.

 

Despite the monetary settlement, district officials are denying any wrongdoing or that they have a legal obligation to Wood.

 

Within seven days of signing the agreement, Wood may cancel his release of claims to institute federal claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and within 15 days to institute state claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

 

In an August plea bargain, Wood agreed to a continuance for dismissal of the assault charge.

 

That means the case has been put on hold for nine months with conditions that he have no same or similar assaultive behavior and pay a $585 fine. He faced a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

According to court documents, the 31-year-old Wood was arrested the night of May 16 at his home in Winnebago around 10:39 p.m.

 

While there is no police incident report on public file, Police Chief Eric Olson says an officer responded to a 911 call.

 

Gough has not said if Wood was allowed to continue teaching following the incident.

 

The district's website says Wood taught third grade was at BEA for at least five years.

 

Zierkes closer to support

September 12, 2016

 

The owners of Zierke Built Mfg., Inc. have moved a step closer in gaining the support of Winnebago city leaders for the company's relocation to Fairmont.

 

Kyle Zierke and his father, Greg, attended a recent Economic Development Authority meeting and told board members the company's two buildings will be put up for sale immediately after they leave town.

 

“I'm sick and tired of reading stuff in the newspaper and looking like a bad guy,” says Kyle Zierke. “I want to leave town on a good note.”

 

Greg Zierke says, “We'll be pretty aggressive once we put the properties on market. We just want a fair price and try to help the city.”

 

The City Council in the past has debated the company's move because the Zierkes have requested a release letter from the city, which would enable ZBM to be eligible for state funding if needed.

 

Kyle Zierke says ZBM sought a new location because the company plans to expand and the cost of upgrading its current facilities would be astronomical.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says the city no longer wants to purchase one of the Zierke buildings for its Public Works Department.

 

“We're more interested in putting the property into private hands to create more jobs,” he says.

 

The Zierkes will be asking $490,000 for the main building or $600,000 for both. In 2013, the fair market value for the ZBM property was $680,000.

 

Ziegler says he would like to see an agreement that says if the Zierkes cannot sell the property after 18 months on the market, that the city could purchase it at the accessed value.

 

It's not clear whether such an option will be worked out, but the EDA did decide that the City Council should consider giving the Zierkes a release letter.

 

ZBM, a national and international supplier of custom fabricated products, will be leaving the city sometime between January and April 2017.

 

In another matter, Ziegler hinted the city may be interested in the Kaduce Plumbing building for the Public Works Department.

 

The business was located north of town on U.S. Highway 169 before moving its operations to Mankato.

 

Chris Kaduce is scheduled to meet with councilmembers in closed-session at their Sept. 13 meeting.

 

EDA discusses two loans

September 10, 2016

 

The Economic Development Authority (EDA) in Winnebago is finding out that lending money can be risky business.

 

EDA board members could be left holding the bag on a couple of loans totaling more than $63,000 to open two restaurants.

 

Late last year, the EDA approved a $60,000 loan for Fredonia & Luella's Seafood Restaurant to be located at the former Tasty Treatz site on South Main Street.

 

For more than six months a sign in front of the building touted that seafood would be “coming soon” to the city.

 

A website says the restaurant will serve authentic Louisiana foods and the freshest Louisiana seafood.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler told EDA board members at their Wednesday meeting he recently spoke with the owner and was assured he was still planning to open.

 

EDA board member Doug Hill has run out of patience and says something needs to be done.

 

“I'm not sure they really had any intention of doing anything. We would have heard something by now,” says Hill. “I recommend we start the process to collect our loan. The sooner the better.”

 

Balance of the Fredonia loan is $57,279 and it is past due. The last payment was made on July 8.

 

While Cuquita's Tex Mex restaurant on Main Street hasn't been open for the past several weeks, Ziegler says the loan is current.

 

Ziegler says he hasn't been able to talk with the owners to see what the intend to do, but they are making their monthly payment of nearly $189. Balance on the original loan of $10,000 is slightly more than $6,000.

 

Despite the two loans, there is some good news regarding eight others with a total outstanding balance of $149,310. Seven of them are current, while one is in forbearance and the EDA is not requiring any payment at this time.

 

On the commercial side, however, there are four loans totaling $25,634 and only one is in current status.

 

Payments have been made on two loans but they still remain past due, while no payment on a loan for $9,289 has been made since last March.

 

Man suspect in burglaries

September 9, 2016

 

A 21-year-old Glenville man arrested following a high-speed chase in Albert Lea is a suspect in two Faribault County burglaries.

 

Chief Deputy Scott Adams says the sheriff's department currently is investigating the burglaries of two rural residences that occurred over the Labor Day weekend.

 

“A large amount of cash and some guns were taken,” he says. “We got a search warrant and recovered some of the items Wednesday night.”

 

Adams says one of the burglaries occurred in Pilot Grove Township and the other was north of Huntley.

 

According to the Albert Lea Police Department, an officer a patrol noticed a white 2006 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Levi Troy Dahl that may have been used in the burglaries.

 

“We had good video footage of the car and blanketed law enforcement agencies in southern Minnesota,” says Adams.

 

The vehicle reportedly was traveling slowly and did not stop after the officer activated his emergency lights.

 

Dahl was apprehended after losing control of his car and crashing head-on into a parked vehicle. Speeds reportedly reached 60 mph during the chase.

 

Adams says Dahl most likely will be charged with first-degree burglary and more arrests could be made.

 

In Freeborn County, Dahl is being charged with felony fleeing a peace officer, criminal vehicular operation, driving while intoxicated and driving after suspension.

 

What is teacher's employment status?

August 31, 2016

 

Will a Blue Earth Area elementary teacher prosecuted for misdemeanor domestic assault be in the classroom when school starts next week?

 

Superintendent Evan Gough is being tight-lipped on the employment status of third-grade teacher Steven Wood.

 

In the past, Gough has said district officials are aware of a complaint involving Wood and that an investigation is being conducted.

 

Gough will not say if the complaint he refers to and the domestic assault charge are the same.

 

“I am not able to discuss the nature of the complaint,” he says. “At this time, there is nothing further I can share with you.”

 

In a plea bargain, Wood agreed to a continuance for dismissal.

 

That means the case has been put on hold for nine months with conditions that he have no same or similar assaultive behavior and pay a $585 fine. He faced a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

According to court documents, the 31-year-old Wood was arrested the night of May 16 at his home in Winnebago.

 

While there is no police incident report on public file, a citation ticket issued to Wood shows an officer was called to his residence around 10:39 p.m.

 

Police Chief Eric Olson says the officer was responding to a 911 call.

 

Gough will not say if Wood was allowed to continue teaching following the incident.

 

The School District's website says Wood has been at BEA for at least five years and is currently teaching third grade.

 

Dulac case delayed again

August 26, 2016

 

A former Faribault County deputy appealing his termination last October will have to wait a little longer to find out if he has won his case.

 

Attorneys from both sides have agreed to extend the deadline for filing written briefs.

 

Shane Dulac's attorney, Isaac Kaufman of the Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc., says the documents must be submitted by Sept. 2.

 

“The arbitrator probably won't make his decision until late September or early October,” says Kaufman.

 

The county's lead attorney in the case, Susan Hansen of Minneapolis, was unavailable for comment.

 

In May, five days of arbitration hearings were held in Blue Earth and an extra day of testimony needed to be held on July 8.

 

According to County Attorney Troy Timmerman, the original deadline for submitting written arguments was 30 days after the last day of hearings.

 

Kaufman will not comment on the compensation Dulac is seeking. But another attorney with the union has said that a favorable ruling could mean result in back wages or possibly be reinstated.

 

Dulac, who had worked for the Sheriff's Department since December 1997, was placed on paid administrative leave for six months before losing his job.

 

His dismissal came following investigations conducted by the Worthington Police Department and an outside county law agency.

 

County officials will only say that Dulac was fired for violating department policies and that reasons why he lost his job will be made public after an appeal ruling is issued.

 

Dulac in his final year of employment earned an annual salary of $56,642.

 

Zierke may pay for letter

August 9, 2016

 

It could cost Zierke Built Manufacturing (ZBM) thousands of dollars to get a letter from the Winnebago City Council saying they do not object to the company's relocation to Fairmont.

 

In 2004, when ZBM announced a $200,000 expansion they were able to take advantage of tax-free benefits provided under the Department of Employment and Economic Development's (DEED) JOBZ program.

 

For 12 years, the company did not pay any sales or corporate income taxes and most property taxes to the county, city and school district.

 

In addition, ZBM received numerous smaller tax breaks and wasn't required to pay any taxes on its buildings.

 

Now, the City Council may ask ZBM to pay the city its share of the taxes on the buildings, which would be about 78 percent.

 

“We'll have to figure that out. It is going to be significant,” says City Administrator Chris Ziegler. “We feel the citizens of the county and city provided them some benefits. Perhaps they should reciprocate.”

 

Tim Clawson, executive director of the Faribault County Development Corporation, told the City Council at their meeting Monday night that calculating the dollar amount in tax breaks received from JOBZ would be difficult.

 

“DEED can't tell you what the tax benefit was. You can't get that information, it's classified,” says Clawson. “The only persons who know are the owners.”

 

However, Clawson says the city could try to collect the taxes not paid on the buildings.

 

“You could make a strong argument that the tax benefit should stay with the property and benefit the next person,” he says. “You can make an attempt to hold them accountable and use that in negotiations.”

 

Despite a recommendation from the city's Economic Development Authority board, councilmembers decided not to seek an appraisal of a ZBM building at this time.

 

The city is interested in buying the company's larger building located on Sixth Avenue Southeast that would be used by the Public Works Department.

 

City officials want to purchase the building at fair market value or have the right of first refusal, which gives the city 30 days to match an offer.

 

City Attorney David Frundt says the council could pick the company to do the appraisal and estimates it would cost the city between $2,500 and $5,000.

 

“I don't feel comfortable going with this, unless we know they are going to play nice,” says Councilman Rick Johnson.

 

ZBM has asked the City Council to sign-off on the company's relocation plans to Fairmont. That is required because they have received state funding in the past while in Winnebago.

 

Getting the city's “no objection” letter will allow the company to seek state monies from various programs.

 

Councilmembers decided to have Ziegler continue discussions with the owners of ZBM.

 

BEA teacher may have case dismissed

August 3, 2016

 

A Blue Earth Area elementary teacher charged with misdemeanor domestic assault has accepted a prosecutor's plea offer, but the status of his license is still unclear.

 

Winnebago City Attorney David Frundt says 31-year-old Steven Wood agreed to a continuance for dismissal during a court hearing held Monday in Faribault County District Court.

 

Frundt says the case has been put on hold for nine months with conditions that Wood have no same or similar assaultive behavior and pay a $585 fine. He faced a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

“If he meets these conditions, the case will be dismissed,” says Frundt. “His wife was in court with him and stated that she consented to this resolution as the victim.”

 

Meanwhile, an official with the Minnesota Board of Teaching says the School Board will have to decide what to do next.

 

“If they were to take disciplinary action, that would require a mandate report to the Board of Teaching,” says Monica Rasmussen, teacher ethics specialist. “I don't think they have contacted us so far, but we need to be aware of that information.”

 

Rasmussen says Wood could have his license suspended or revoked, however, that would depend on the seriousness of his conduct and terms of the plea agreement.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough has said in the past that the school district is conducting its own investigation.

 

Gough will not comment on Wood's current employment status and if he was allowed to continue teaching following the incident.

 

According to court documents, Wood was arrested the night of May 16 at his home in Winnebago after an officer responded to a 911 call around 10:39 p.m.

 

The School District's website says Wood has been at BEA for at least five years and is currently teaching third grade.

Still no decision in Dulac appeal case

July 26, 2016

 

Attorneys in the case involving a former Faribault County deputy appealing his firing have one last chance to persuade an arbitrator.

 

County Attorney Troy Timmerman says following a final day of testimony held on July 8, attorneys on both sides had 30 days to submit written arguments.

 

“The arbitrator will then probably have a few weeks to issue a decision,” Timmerman says.

 

In May, Timmerman, an arbitrator from the Bureau of Mediation Services, Shane Dulac and his attorney Isaac Kaufman of Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS) in St. Paul, met behind closed doors for five days in Blue Earth.

 

Kaufman would not comment on the compensation Dulac is seeking. But another attorney with the union has said that a favorable ruling could mean he would receive back wages or possibly be reinstated.

 

Dulac, who had worked for the Sheriff's Department since December 1997, was placed on paid administrative leave for six months before losing his job.

 

His dismissal came following investigations conducted by the Worthington Police Department and an outside county law agency.

 

County officials will only say that Dulac was fired for violating department policies and that reasons why he lost his job will be made public after an appeal ruling is issued.

 

Dulac in his final year of employment earned an annual salary of $56,642.

 

Plea deal offered in BEA teacher case

A plea bargain has been offered to a Blue Earth Area elementary school teacher charged with misdemeanor domestic assault.

 

Winnebago City Attorney David Frundt says a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Tuesday, July 19, was continued to Aug. 1 at his request and Steven Wood's attorney, Thomas Hagen.

 

“I have made an offer to settle the case and Mr. Wood and his attorney needed more time to research some issues and decide what to do at this point,” Frundt says.

 

In deciding to offer a settlement, Frundt says he analyzed facts and evidence in the case and also received input from the victim.

 

“It is my job to determine an outcome that is in the best interests of justice for the people first, the victim of a crime second and the defendant last,” he adds.

 

Misdemeanor domestic assault is defined as a person commits acts with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

The 31-year-old Wood, according to court documents, was arrested the night of May 16 at his home in Winnebago.

 

While there is no police incident report on public file, a citation ticket issued to Wood shows an officer was called to his residence around 10:39 p.m.

 

Police Chief Eric Olson says the officer was responding to a 911 call.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough has said in the past that the school district is aware of a complaint involving Wood and an investigation is being conducted.

 

Gough will not comment on Wood's current employment status or if he was allowed to continue teaching following the incident.

 

The School District's website says Wood has been at BEA for at least five years and is currently teaching third grade.

 

Bago wants to make deal with Zierke

July 13, 2016

 

Winnebago city leaders know they can't stop Zierke Built Mfg., Inc. from moving to Fairmont, however, they want to strike a deal with company officials before they leave.

 

On Tuesday night, the City Council tabled a request from Zierke Built vice president Kyle Zierke to sign a letter saying the city is OK with the company leaving.

 

City Administrator Chris Ziegler says council members need to sign off on the relocation because the company has obtained state funding in the past with the city's help. By doing so, it allows Zierke Built to apply for state monies that may be needed.

 

“Under state law there's a clause to keep communities from pirating companies from their neighbors,” says Ziegler.

 

Zierke Built president Greg Zierke has cited a limited workforce and not enough space are reasons preventing the company's expansion and the need to find a new site.

 

“I met with Kyle and he expressed several times that we met their expectations,” Ziegler says. “He also told me they are planning to sell the buildings.”

 

City officials have been looking for a bigger facility to house the Public Works Department, so Ziegler suggested the council seek an option agreement to purchase one of the buildings in exchange for signing a letter.

 

Council member Jean Anderson says she doesn't want Winnebago to get a reputation of being difficult to work with but they need to have some bargaining power.

 

“We're doing them a big favor and we should get something out of it,” she says.

 

Councilman Scott Robertson says he doesn't want to hinder any business that's trying to improve and shouldn't stand in the way.

 

During a radio show Wednesday morning on KBEW, Ziegler says Zierke's decision to leave Winnebago,“came out of the blue,” and “it's kind of a shock for all of us.”

 

“We want to take time and take a deep breath before we decide what to do next,” says Ziegler.

 

Council members directed City Attorney David Frundt to draw up terms and conditions for an option agreement that will be presented to the Zierkes.

 

Zierke Built leaving Winnebago?

July 12, 2016

 

Winnebago may be losing one of its largest employers soon to a nearby city.

 

Zierke Built Mfg., Inc., is looking to set up operations in Fairmont, after searching for sites in area cities like Albert Lea and Mankato.

 

“We've been growing like crazy and my problem is we can't find any help,” says Greg Zierke, owner and president of the company.

 

Talks about  Zierke Built leaving Winnebago have been briefly discussed at recent Economic Development Authority (EDA) and City Council meetings.

 

And on Monday, the Fairmont EDA voted to ask its City Council to approve the company's relocation to the city at their next meeting.

 

According to Zierke, about 70 percent of the company's workforce already commutes from Fairmont.

 

“We need more room and my biggest headache is finding employees,” says Zierke. “That's the number one factor affecting any expansion.”

 

Zierke says the city of Winnebago and Faribault County have been good and supportive, however, “the company has to go where the people are.”

 

The Fairmont School District offers a welding course to its students, he says, and that also will make it easier to find workers.

 

Currently, Zierke Built employs 40 people and operates in two buildings covering some 70,000 square feet.

 

Zierke says the move has been in the works for the past several weeks, but he started considering the idea two years ago.

 

Ideally, Zierke would like to have all operations in one building and that would require a facility of at least 100,000 square feet.

 

“Being under one roof would be more efficient,” he says. “Right now using two buildings is cutting into our profit. We're losing 10 to 15 percent.”

 

A business website that profiles companies says Zierke Built has annual revenue of at least nearly $3 million and it could be as high as $5 million.

 

Teacher facing domestic assault charge

June 29, 2016

 

Blue Earth Area (BEA) School District officials aren't commenting on the employment status of an elementary teacher charged with misdemeanor domestic assault.

 

According to Faribault County court documents, 31-year-old Steven Robert Wood was arrested the night of May 16 at his home in Winnebago.

 

Superintendent Evan Gough in an e-mail on Tuesday says, “The school district is aware of a complaint involving Mr. Wood. An investigation will be conducted.”

 

Although a police incident report isn't on public file, a citation ticket issued to Wood shows an officer was called to his residence around 10:39 p.m.

 

Police Chief Eric Olson says the officer was responding to a 911 call.

 

The School District's website says Wood has been at BEA for at least five years and is currently teaching third grade.

 

Gough did not respond to questions on whether Wood has been placed on paid leave, suspended or was allowed to continue teaching following the incident.

 

Misdemeanor domestic assault is defined as a person commits acts with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death.

 

Wood has hired an attorney from Mankato and is expected to appear in district court for a pre-trial hearing on July 19.

 

Corn Plus fined again for violations

June 23, 1016

 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has again fined Corn Plus nearly $40,000 for water-related pollution and violations of its stormwater permit.

 

MPCA is fining the Winnebago ethanol plant $39,450 for failing to keep stormwater runoff out of nearby lakes, streams and groundwater; allowing leaks from its cooling towers; and turning in water pollution-related paperwork late.

 

Since 2009, Corn Plus has received more than $1.3 million in fines from state and federal agencies.

 

Corn Plus has agreed to pay the latest fine and correct several related issues.

 

The company has already cleaned up a dumpster area where the rainwater flowed through on its way to runoff points off of the ethanol plant's property.

 

“The plant has submitted a plan and documentation on storing, reporting and disposing of materials that could be industrial waste,” says the MPCA.

 

According to the MPCA, Corn Plus employees failed to properly take water samples and store excess stormwater to prevent pollution runoff 44 times from March 2012 through April 2016.

 

Mike Gustafson, environmental health and safety manager for Corn Plus, says many of the MPCA allegations are old and any potential issues have been fixed.

 

He says the company plans to update its permit to increase the amount of stormwater the plant can retain.

 

Genesis ends first year, looks ahead

June 9, 2016

 

Genesis Classical Academy (GCA) in Winnebago isn't resting on its laurels.

 

Although the school year has barely ended, GCA officials are already gearing up for next year.

 

In its inaugural year of operation, there were nearly 30 students enrolled in grades pre-K through 4th and the non-denominational Christian school finished in the black financially.

 

“We're pretty happy with the first year, it was a good one,” says Bill Erickson, GCA board president. “The families that participated are signing up their children again and others are considering.”

 

School headmaster Renee Doyle says another grade level will be added and they are planning for 45 students.

 

“We will likely hire two additional full-time teachers,” says Doyle.

 

This year the school employed four full-time and four part-time teachers, as well as three paid support staff.

 

To ensure the school's budget needs are met, says Erickson, fund-raising efforts and events have been ongoing.

 

Doyle says $6,300 was raised during a recent spring fashion show and $2,100 from a garage sale.

 

“We're always seeking small and large donations,” says Erickson. “Our goal is so people can afford to have their children come here. We have to raise funds to make it possible for those who can't afford to pay full tuition.”

 

Despite increasing enrollment, GCA officials aren't making any plans to move from their Parker Oaks location.

 

“At this point there is plenty of room to expand. Space is not a factor,” says Erickson. “We can take whatever enrollment we get. We'll be able to handle it.”

 

The cost of tuition for one child is $4,950; $3,950 for a second child; and $2,950 for each additional child.

 

Parents may obtain more information regarding enrollment and scholarships from the school's website or by calling (507) 893-3600.

Heartland to buy P. Oaks, nursing homes

June 2, 2016

 

A not-for-profit corporation is a step closer to purchasing Parker Oaks in Winnebago and two other area nursing homes.

 

At Wednesday's Economic Development Authority meeting in Winnebago, City Council member and EDA board member Jean Anderson told the board a deal has been reached between Heartland Senior Living and ElderCare of Minnesota.

 

“It's done,” says Anderson. “They are going through an ownership transition right now.”

 

Early last year, the owners of Parker Oaks announced that the nursing home would be changed to an assisted-living “plus” facility. That sparked the formation of Heartland and efforts to buy the long-term care facility from Jim and Kathy Birchem of Little Falls.

 

Heartland president Bill Erickson says a purchase agreement has been signed that also includes Parkview Care Center in Wells and Truman Senior Living Inc., in Truman.

 

“It's in the works. The pieces are all set, we just have to finish the process and we anticipate that is going to happen,” says Erickson. “It's a lengthy process and we have a long checklist that has to be done.”

 

Board members of Heartland have applied for a rural development loan from the USDA to help finance the purchases, but Erickson would not say much how funding has been requested.

 

Erickson says it's too early to discuss whether any changes will be made at any of the facilities.

 

“Our goal has been to continue to provide quality care to seniors and a needed service in the community,” he adds.

 

Dulac arbitration hearing not over

May 26, 2016

 

An arbitration hearing has been held for a former Faribault County deputy fired last October, however, it seems more testimony is needed.

 

Last week, County Attorney Troy Timmerman, an arbitrator from the Bureau of Mediation Services and Shane Dulac's attorney, Isaac Kaufman of Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS) in St. Paul, met four days behind closed doors in Blue Earth.

 

“It's not over,” says Kaufman. “We will need to re-convene sometime in June or July.”

 

Timmerman anticipates one day should be enough to complete the hearing.

 

Kaufman had expected a final decision in the case would be issued sometime next month or July, however, it seems likely that has been pushed back.

 

Kaufman would not say how many people have been interviewed or how many hours of testimony there has been.

 

Another attorney with the union has said that a favorable ruling for Dulac could mean he would receive back wages and reinstatement. But, Kaufman would comment on the compensation Dulac is seeking.

 

Dulac, who had worked for the Sheriff's Department since December 1997, was placed on paid administrative leave for six months before losing his job.

 

Dulac's dismissal came following investigations conducted by the Worthington Police Department and an outside county law agency.

 

County officials will only say that Dulac was fired for violating department policies and that reasons why he lost his job will be made public after an appeal ruling is issued.

 

Dulac in his final year of employment earned an annual salary of $56,642.

 

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© 2015 Antonio Acosta