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Conspiracy cases may be resolved

March 3, 2021


Two mothers who were charged after their sons were convicted of assaulting a Blue Earth Area football teammate in 2017 appear to have their cases coming to an end.


Mankato attorney Patrick Casey says while the court hasn't addressed his client's right to a speedy trial, he and Faribault County prosecutors have reached a deal.


“The state has agreed and we have accepted a six-month continuance for dismissal,” says Casey. “The only condition is that Shawna Barnett have not same or similar violations of law and this case will be dismissed in six months.”


Barnett, 47, of Des Moines, Iowa, and Renee Lee Nagel, 47, of Blue Earth each face four felonies for conspiring to cover up the assault committed by their sons and two other teens.


According to court documents filed in Faribault County District Court, the two were charged with aiding an offender; aiding an offender obstructing an investigation; conspiracy to aid an offender; and conspiracy to obstruct an investigation or prosecution.


Barnett and Nagel, “consulted each other and third parties about the assaults and worked to eliminate the risk of conviction for their sons and others,” says the complaint.


Subpoenaed text messages are cited as evidence, according to the court complaint, and a cellphone belonging to Barnett's son reportedly disappeared before authorities could view video of the assault.


According to the court's schedule, Barnett was scheduled to have an arraignment hearing on March 17.


Nagel's next court appearance was a contested omnibus hearing set for April 26, but it was canceled and rescheduled to a plea hearing on March 29.


Nagel's attorney, Michael Kircher, did not respond to a request for comment.


Board doesn't defy governor afterall

February 14, 2021


Oops! Oops!


Faribault County commissioners have fallen victim to the adage ---- garbage in, garbage out.


On Jan. 19, the County Board on a 3-2 vote approved the “Citizens Rights” resolution. However, it wasn't the one County Attorney Kathryn Karjala emailed for a story.


“It does appear that I attached Mr. Carlson's resolution twice instead of the resolution as passed,” Karjala says. “The county probably will not face litigation.”


The county attorney is referring to a resolution Commissioner Tom Loveall introduced on behalf of Garth Carlson, the owner of Carlson Events Center located in the old Winnebago school building.


Loveall and fellow Commissioner Greg Young voted in favor of the Carlson resolution, although Karjala called it “unconstitutional,” could result in lawsuits against the county and loss of potential coronavirus relief aid. Commissioners John Roper, Bill Groskreutz and Bruce Anderson voted against it.


The resolution that was ultimately approved, following some changes made by Loveall, still supports the rights and liberties of citizens set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment.


“The Faribault County Board of Commissioners acknowledges the ability of the individuals and businesses of Faribault County to determine their best course of action to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the resolution says.


Loveall, Young and Anderson supported the revised version, while Roper and Groskreutz did not.


“I think it was unnecessary to vote for something that we already do as a commissioner when we took our oath of office,” Roper says.


Groskreutz says he wanted to wait and have the county attorney determine whether the resolution is constitutional.


“We're not going to tell a business that they can or not be open or anyone that they can defy the governor's executive orders,” says Groskreutz. “If they do, we won't be there to bail them out. They'll have to face the consequences.”


Investigation cost more than $20,000

February 6, 2021


Investigation of a second complaint filed against Winnebago's police chief and a police officer is complete and cost more than $20,000.


City Administrator Jake Skluzacek says the city paid Isaac Kaufman of Red Cedar Consulting in Edina $22,122 for the investigation that began last July.


Because of state Data Privacy Laws, says Skluzacek, findings in the report will not be made public.


“The information cannot be released by the city without express consent for its release from the employees,” he says.


The complaint reportedly alleged Police Chief Eric Olson and officer Jacob Pettit used “excessive force” during a traffic stop for a suspected driver's license cancellation on May 6.


Because information of the investigation will remain private, that means there was no wrongdoing found and no disciplinary action will be taken.


“The City Council will vote on Feb. 9th to take no further action on the complaint,”says Skluzacek.


In another investigation, Kaufman billed the city $3,100 and determined there was no “abuse of power and overreach” when a bar owner was charged with violating an executive order to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.


In early July, Michelle Soldo of Soldo Consulting Group, P.C., of Woodbury began working on the investigations and Kaufman was hired later.


According to a website page, Kaufman has served 11 years as head of the Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS), Inc., the largest law enforcement union in the state.


As part of his duties he traveled throughout the state representing members in Internal Affairs investigations, grievance arbitrations and litigation.


Letter discussed, councilman remains

February 2, 2021


Despite signing a letter that KBEW's general manager called “an attempt of extortion,” a Blue Earth councilman will continue to serve.


After nearly one hour of public comment, the City Council chose not to vote on whether Councilman John Huisman should be removed.


Mayor Rick Scholtes told those in attendance he decided to put discussion of the letter on the Monday meeting agenda because of public inquiries.


“In the past week and a half I received numerous emails, texts and phone calls about what we were going to do,” says Scholtes.


Huisman and 13 people ---- members of the county's DFL Party --- signed a letter expressing their displeasure that KBEW was airing a program called The O'Reilly Update and sent it to station management.


“We wanted our voice heard and to me that is the American way,” he says. “None of the 14 people released the letter to social media, we didn't want that to happen.”


Huisman speculates that it was a staff member at the radio station who took a copy of the letter and posted it on social media.


That drew a sharp denial from station general manager Ron Revere, saying that employees were told not to make any comments about the letter publicly.


“How it got there I have no idea. It does bother me we were blamed for putting it on social media,” he says. “That is absolutely false.”


Revere admits he did make copies for business owners who requested one.


When asked what the council could do to reprimand Huisman, Scholtes explained that five of the seven council members would need to vote in favor of removing him.


Huisman could have resigned, but chose not to. He also serves on the Economic Development Authority board and plans to explain at their next meeting why he should remain a member.


Scholtes says the fifth-term councilman could still be subjected to a recall vote if 250 eligible voters who voted in the last election sign a petition.


The signatures would have to be verified of being valid and then the council would need to pass a resolution to hold a special election.


In the letter, members of the community and area would be asked to refrain from listening to KBEW and businesses owners encouraged not to advertise on the station.


Huisman says the county's DFL Party held a special meeting recently and did not take action on the group's recommendations.


“My employees felt it was a threat to destroy the radio station. It was a deliberate attempt to harm our business, we didn't take that very well,” says Revere. “It was an attempt to scare us.”


In issuing an apology, Huisman says the group never intended to cause any harm to anyone.


“I am sincerely, truly sorry that this happened. If I could take it back, I would. One hundred times over,” he says. “It clearly was a mistake on my part.”


Revere accepted Huisman's apology, saying it was time to move on.


Scholtes says the city does not have a code of conduct pertaining to council members and it is something that should be addressed in the future.


Letter may be discussed at meeting

January 30, 2021


A letter sent to the local radio station has some residents angry and is listed as a New Business item ---- KBEW letter ---- on the Blue Earth City Council agenda for Monday's meeting beginning at 5 p.m.


On a Saturday 12:15 p.m. radio newscast it was reported the letter was going to be discussed.


The letter, addressed to the station's general manager and program director, takes issue with The O'Reilly Update, a 15-minute program that airs daily beginning at noon.


“In a time of deep division among our citizens, Bill O'Reilly's poisonous, divisive political rhetoric deepens those divisions in the United States of America,” says the letter. “We feel KBEW is not a vehicle with which to air these extreme, venomous positions.”


O'Reilly once hosted on the conservative Fox News network a top-rated show called “The O'Reilly Factor,” which he touted as being a “no-spin zone” analysis of news and current events.


At the end of the KBEW broadcast O'Reilly thanks those for listening and adds his show is, “No spin. Just facts. And, always looking out for you.”


The letter, which is not endorsed by the Faribault County DFL Party, lists the names of some local Democrats --- including Councilman John Huisman.


Those who sent the letter requested it be placed in the station's “public inspection file,” which the Federal Communications Commission requires. However, a copy of the letter was also posted by someone on social media.


According to the letter, the county's DFL Party would be encouraged to take the following steps:

  • Never purchase any more advertising on KBEW in the future;

  • Encourage members of the community and area to refrain from listening to KBEW;

  • Tell current and future KBEW advertisers their dollars could be better spent elsewhere;

  • and, advise future candidates we support for political office not to use KBEW as a marketing vehicle.

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© 2015 Antonio Acosta