Author: Mathew Meyer
For those following the continuing issues involving SPUC and the City’s failed referendum, you may remember that City officials suggested there was “criminal” activity at SPU, thus justifying their campaign to acquire SPUC’s financial reserves for the City’s benefit.
In fact, we described the so-called “criminal” investigation that justified their campaign of innuendo and rumor in this blog post. Now we suddenly find out that the County Attorney decided not to pursue any criminal charges in a letter to the Shakopee Police Department dated October 21 – two weeks before the election. But it was only released on Thursday, November 12 – after the election was concluded!
What were the County Attorney’s real conclusions?
The blogger who originally received and posted this letter omitted the most significant conclusion of the County Attorney – that criminal prosecution would be too difficult given Mr. Crooks’ reasonable, but misguided, interpretation of the statute relating to the salary cap issue. This paragraph of his report is here:
“Our main hurdle would be to prove that he knew his calculation of his salary was not permitted under that statute. The independent review that the board had conducted notes that a layperson reading the statute could readily conclude that vacation and sick [time] are excluded. Also, plain reading of the statute (which would be presented at a jury at a trial) can lead one to believe that his calculation was not so far removed that it’s obvious he was intending to deceive the board.”
Why was this withheld from the public?
In my post “At the Scene of the Non-Crime”: Part 2 of the City’s Legally and Ethically Questionable Tactics, I suggested a political motive regarding the origination of this investigation and the fact that it was not referred to another law enforcement agency due to the inherent conflict of interest. I am saddened to learn that this letter dated October 21, two weeks before the election, was withheld by the City until after the election despite its clear relevance to the political campaign regarding City Question #1. This clearly suggests that the original complaint and questionable investigation were, in fact, politically motivated to allow those supporting the referendum to inappropriately suggest “criminal” activity at SPUC up until election day.
More concerning is that Shakopee City elected officials and employees withheld this significant and relevant information from voters until after election day. As I discussed in the post “Just Cause for Complaint”: Part 1 of the City’s Legally and Ethically Questionable Tactics, a municipality is only allowed to use public funds to “fairly and impartially educate the electorate” regarding local ballot issues.
Not only were the City Administrator’s dubious allegations the basis for the investigation, but they were also used by City officials to justify the referendum to dissolve SPUC. Thus, if the City was following the law limiting the use of taxpayer money only for neutral fact sharing, rather than advocacy, it surely would have disclosed this correspondence and the County Attorney’s conclusion that there was no criminal conduct involved in the salary cap issue. Instead, the City chose to only release information, regardless of its accuracy, which furthered its campaign and concealed information detrimental to its political goal of dissolving the SPUC.
Could the County Attorney’s letter have affected the vote if it had been released when published?
I believe so. Informed voters interested in City Question #1 knew of the allegations and would surely have been interested in the County Attorney’s conclusion that there was no criminal activity regarding the salary cap issue. The City withheld this vital information for three weeks – until after election day. The Mayor, City Councilmembers, and employees who knew about the County Attorney’s letter and said nothing have in essence confirmed that the City was conducting an illegal campaign advocating for passage of City Question #1.
Is another investigation needed?
As it turns out, there was illegal activity going on. But not within Shakopee Public Utilities. Will the County Attorney investigate the City regarding its conduct in this campaign?