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Using tax dollars for political ads?

October 4, 2022


Since filing for re-election in the Nov. 8 general election, Faribault County Sheriff Mike Gormley has been using taxpayer money to buy print ads.


According to the county auditor/treasurer's office, vouchers submitted by the Sheriff's Office have been paid using general fund money.


So far, county commissioners have approved paying for May, June, July and August ads totaling nearly $1,100.


Gormley says the ads aren't campaign related and not being used to gain a fifth four-year term.


None of these ads are seeking political support,” he says. “The sheriff’s office has historically used grant funds and levy funds to promote positive public relations with the county’s residents.”


The ads appear with several other businesses showing support for area community festivals, youth and civic groups, and campaigns such as National Safety Month or Fourth of July safety.


"Building a strong, trusting relationship between law enforcement and residents very much  serves a great public purpose," says Gormley.


State law defines “campaign material” as any literature, publication, or material that is disseminated for the purpose of influencing voting and required to have a disclaimer.


While Gormley's ads do not ask for someone's vote, they are aimed at creating a positive image for his department and also include his name and title. As a result, he's benefitting indirectly as a candidate.


Meanwhile, Gormley's opponent North Mankato police officer Jacob Kral recently dipped into his campaign funds to spend several hundreds of dollars for print ads.


Recognizing that an incumbent has some advantages over their opponent, the County Board has an unwritten rule until the election is held.


Commissioners seeking re-election are not allowed to be the board's spokesperson on KBEW a day after their monthly meeting to give a report.



Petitions, resolution seek changes

September 16, 2022


Petitions gathering signatures and a proposed resolution will try and change the way Faribault County votes are cast and tallied Nov. 8 and in future elections.


Brenda Baldwin of Blue Earth is spearheading the effort to have the paper ballots counted by hand instead of the optical scan machines currently used.


“The machines are open to fraud, even without knowledge of anyone in the auditor’s office,” says Baldwin.


In a letter to the editor in the Faribault County Register, Baldwin says she has the utmost respect and confidence in the County Auditor and election officials.


“I am confident that they do this thankless job with fairness and integrity,” she says. “However, when it comes to the machine themselves not so much.”


Baldwin cites reasons why she believes the scanning machines could be hacked.


The petitions have been placed throughout the county at 21 locations in 13 cities.


“I don’t know how many signatures we currently have because there are multiple people out getting signatures,” she says. “I do not have a number we need, but we’re shooting for 600.”


Baldwin plans to present a resolution to the five-member County Board for a vote at their Oct. 4 meeting.


To deter the potential for fraud in elections, the resolution proposes all votes must be cast in person, except for authorized/verified absentee ballots, and cast on the same day as the election.


That means that mail-in ballots would be eliminated and there would be no drop boxes and curbside voting.


If the resolution is approved, scanning machines could return if they can be guaranteed as being secure and unhackable.


Also, same day voting would have to continue, absentee ballots authorized and verified, and the cast vote record publicly available when requested.


“This resolution may be rescinded, and voting/tabulation machines may return upon the request of the Board of Commissioners of Faribault County, to and with the approval of the citizens of Faribault County,” the resolution says.


Baldwin says a compromise may be to use the scanning machines and also have the votes counted by hand. That way, the results could be compared.


Anyone having any questions may contact Baldwin by calling (507) 525-2305.


Locations to sign a petition include:

  • Blue Earth --- Bomgaars, Breen’s, Parts City Auto Parts, Prairie Chic
  • Bricelyn ----- American Legion
  • Delavan ----- Stauffer Stop & Go
  • Easton ------ Sonnek’s Service
  • Elmore ------ Jerry’s Tire, J & J Recycling
  • Frost --------- Julie’s
  • Guckeen ----- Derby Inn
  • Huntley ------ Huntley Café
  • Kiester ------- Kiester Market
  • Minnesota Lake --- Murphy’s Convenience Store
  • Walters ----- Kroneberg Repair
  • Wells ------ VFW, American Legion
  • Winnebago --- Roerig Hardware, John’s Auto, Bago Feed Store, Dollar General


Kral will cut sheriff, chief deputy pay

June 29, 2022


A North Mankato police officer running for Faribault County sheriff says he will cut his salary and the chief deputy’s if elected.


Last year, Sheriff Mike Gormley was paid a base salary of $132,579 and Chief Deputy Scott Adams had gross earnings of $145,824. In 2020, Gormley earned $128,822 while Adams made $155,611.


Jacob Kral obtained the information from Lexi Scholten, central services director for the county, after submitting a data request.


“It’s pretty absurd for a county our size and population. It’s just ridiculous, the chief deputy makes almost as much as the Blue Earth County sheriff,” says Kral.


Base salary information shows that Adams was paid $42.94 an hour last year, while the department’s most senior road deputy’s hourly rate was $29.31 and had total earnings of $76,107.


Gross wages for Adams and the senior deputy include hourly pay, overtime and paid time off.


Based on an average work week of 40 hours for 52 weeks, that means Adams' overtime pay totaled more than $56,000 in last year and nearly $69,000 in 2020.


Kral says in the past 16 years Gormley has made some positive changes, but it is time for a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and excitement for the position.


“On day one, I will move to have the chief deputy’s position to salaried and also request that the sheriff’s salary be adjusted to make funds available to hire another road deputy,” he says. “An additional deputy will help with deterring crime by being more visible to the public.”


In addition to the pay cuts, Kral hopes to focus on employee retention and recruitment in what he calls “a critical time” in law enforcement.


“It’s getting harder to hire jailers, dispatchers and support people. They are critical. Without them our county would be in shambles. They are essential workers,” he says.


Holding the justice system accountable and making sure victims of crimes are heard will be another goal Kral will strive for.


He says in December of 2017 he was a victim of a burglary and the former county attorney did not file charges.


Kral says the suspect was well known to county authorities as well as regionally and also was charged in other separate cases.


“The county attorney at that time failed to contact me as a victim before a plea deal was offered,” he says. “Criminals have more rights than victims. That needs to change. That’s not OK.”


Kral says he plans to work with federal and state lawmakers to address the issue of victims rights.


Republicans ask for election judges

June 26, 2022


Former President Donald Trump’s claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election may not be the reason, but local Republicans are increasing their presence at the polls this year.


“We have been encouraging interested parties to sign up to be election judges for many years,” says Bill Erickson, chairman of the Faribault County Republican Party.


Darren Esser, Faribault County auditor/treasurer/coordinator, says the county’s GOP Party requested a total of nine judges.


“Assuming the prospective judges get properly trained, they can work in both the August primary and November general elections,” says Esser.


In Blue Earth, Ward 2 will get four more judges and Ward 3 one, while the cities of Bricelyn, Kiester, Wells and Winnebago will each get one.


The Winnebago City Council at their June 14 meeting approved Darren Barnett as an election judge and Esser says the other cities will have to do the same.


“In most cases the council approves the election judges at least 25 days before the election,” says Esser.


Erickson says state law requires party balance in each precinct and in some parts of the state it has resulted in litigation because the requirement has not been met.


“It’s particularly related to situations where one party dominates and uses public employees to serve as judges without concern for the party balance requirements,” he says. “I am not suggesting there is an issue here.”


Faribault County DFL Party chairman Dan Woodring says they have not asked for extra judges because there hasn’t been evidence of any significant election fraud.


“Our party is going to remain tethered to that reality rather than some of the outlandish false narratives that are out there,” he says.


Under the state’s election guidelines, no more than half of the election judges in a precinct may be members of the same political party unless the election board consists of an odd number of election judges.


Judges at the polling place generally fall into the following categories:
       • Head judge- in charge of the polling place. Reviews credentials of challengers, media, election administration representatives to decide if they are able to remain in the polling place. May conduct challenge procedures.

       • Greeter judge - Directs traffic flow and keeps order. Supplies timely information regarding voter’s correct poll location and Election Day registration documents. Answers questions about language and/or disability assistance in the polling place.
         • Roster/electronic roster judge - Signs in voters who registered in advance of Election Day. Alerts voters to their record notations such as “A.B.,” “challenges” and “see I.D.”
         • Registration judge - Registers voters who did not register in advance. Refers voters to correct poll location if current location is incorrect. A registration judge is prohibited from handling ballots of voters they have registered until the polls are closed. May conduct challenge procedures.
         • Demonstration judge - Explains how to mark a ballot.

         • Ballot judge - Gives official ballots to voters. Explains spoiled ballot procedures. Monitors and keeps supply of official ballots and secrecy covers.
         • Ballot counter judge - Oversees the ballot box area and gives out “I Voted” stickers. Maintains physical security of the ballot box; ensuring the program card storage compartments and all doors are locked throughout the voting period.


Two incumbents being challenged

June 5, 2022


Two long-time serving Faribault County officials will have to convince voters they deserve to keep their jobs.


Filing for the District 4 commissioner’s race were incumbent Tom Loveall of rural Winnebago, Dana Gates of rural Winnebago and Dru Martin of rural Easton.


Loveall has served 20 years on the County Board, being first elected in 2003.


Gates isn’t new to local government politics, having served on the Winnebago City Council from 2006 to 2010.


Gates says, “I’m simply following my interest in government,” is one of the reasons he’s running for commissioner.


“I’m giving the people a choice in the next election,” says Gates. “As a business owner in the county, I’m very accessible, which I believe to be a strong asset.”


Gates worked as a loan officer for nine years at the bank in Winnebago prior to operating the Steel Wheel Bar on Main Street from 2014 to 2019. He currently owns Allenz Bar in Easton.


This is the second time Martin has run for the District 4 seat. In 2018, he lost to Loveall by nearly a 300-vote margin.


Because there are three candidates, they will square off in the Aug 9 primary election. The two top vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.


District 4 includes the cities of Delavan, Easton and Winnebago and the townships of Barber, Delavan, Lura, Prescott and Winnebago.


In the other contested race, Sheriff Mike Gormley of rural Bricelyn will be seeking his fifth four-year term. He is being challenged by North Mankato police officer Jacob Kral of Blue Earth.


County offices that only had the incumbent filing were, District 2 incumbent Commissioner Greg Young; auditor-treasurer, Darren Esser; recorder, Sheryl Asmus; and county attorney, Cameron Davis.


Sheriff's race likely to be contested

April 23, 2022


Although it is not official, there’s someone who wants to be the new sheriff in town.


North Mankato police officer Jacob Kral says he plans to run for Faribault County sheriff in the Nov. 8 general election.


“As a resident of Faribault County for many years I feel it is my time to give back to the community and be a voice for all residents,” says Kral. “I look forward to meeting and listening to the people of Faribault County.”


Kral touts 17 years of devoted public service, working as a Faribault County deputy, police officer, reserve officer and instructor of DNR youth safety classes.


He also is a member of the Lura Lake Association, Lura Lake Aeration Association and Faribault County Farm Bureau.


Kral and his wife Brooke have three children and live on family farm in Faribault County.


Meanwhile, incumbent Sheriff Mike Gormley must decide whether he wants to seek another four-year term.

“The period for filing hasn’t opened up yet, so no one can truly file. I will be making a decision soon,” he says.


Gormley’s law enforcement career spans more than 30 years, 16 of those serving as the county’s sheriff.


Should Gormley decide not to seek re-election, which could open the door for Chief Deputy Scott Adams.


Adams has nearly 26 years of law enforcement experience, 15 as second-in-command of the sheriff’s department.


The filing period for county offices opens on May 17 and closes on May 31 and there is a $50 filing fee.6



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