Archive for the ‘Meeker County’ Category

Meeker County May 26, 2015 Work Session

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

By Ford Peterson, Dassel, MN  May 28, 2015

I welcomed the opportunity to attend the informal “Work Session” on Tuesday and ask questions with testifiers still in the room. It is a breath of fresh air to be able to see this administration taking steps to bring transparency to important issues related to county government, and provide a venue for feedback from the public. The press was missing, which is unfortunate. One disgruntled former employee narrowly escaped being escorted from the room! What drama!

The first topic of discussion was a proposal to add a Social Host Ordinance. Testimony from law enforcement was informative. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that government needs to stay out of the parenting business. Parenting is not a simple matter. A lifetime of “practice” is insufficient time to get it right. Likewise, to expect property owners to enforce laws is unreasonable. Property owners have little control over those who rent property. Tenants enjoy the “quiet use” of the property they lease. Expecting owners to hover down the street hoping to observe tenants in the act of violating “quiet use” is not appropriate. More laws on the books that charge good people with crimes will not improve our quality of life. More ordinances would create work for law enforcement, our courts, and county employees. It is questionable whether employees can be successful in rehabilitating the public’s parenting skill, or a land owner’s ability to control “quiet use” using tools like: violations, fines, criminal charges, and probation.  “Good government” should improve our quality of life.

Next on the agenda was a presentation of the Springstead Organizational Study. It appears that scope of this study was somewhat limited. An attempt to measure service delivery effectiveness was not included in the scope of study. The consultant’s assessment relied on interviews and an employee questionnaire. In my opinion, a “customer satisfaction survey” including only responses from employees falls short of a true assessment of an evaluation of effectiveness in the delivery of services by the county. Imagine how ridiculous such a study would be for a restaurant to evaluate their “customer satisfaction” using only responses from the wait and cook staff!

I welcome the study’s findings, and appreciate the opportunity to attend the meeting. Some actions have precipitated from the study and the public should applaud. Meeker County has a long-list of management issues, which I can only hope the Commissioners plan to address one-day.

Some on-going management issues between the auditor and treasurer are settled and a strategy in process for making it better.

The study addressed issues regarding how the commissioners interact with employees, each other, and the public. Reforms are needed, welcome, and applauded.

The study revealed that no county employee has been subject to a periodic review. Seriously? There has been no annual review of employees? How did this happen? Most private and public firms impose, at a minimum, an annual review of performance for every employee. Even the Board of Commissioners is negligent in this regard. Our Commissioners need to address the need for periodic review and the responsibility for this failure of good management practice placed at the feet of our County Administrator as a gross failure to impose this ubiquitous “best practice” in county administration.

The report was silent on the topic of “case banking,” a notion believed to improve efficient delivery of services. It also would improve how the employees interact with the public. Technology is the key to improvement, which takes time and thoughtful strategy.

No mention of the county’s use of unlicensed workers to manage guardianship issues involving parental and family custody rights. Parental and family rights are serious matters in need of serious reforms. Now I find these were outside the scope of study. Springstead presented no evidence that law enforcement was included in the study. I view this as a missed opportunity to start important reforms.

When asked to evaluate the work session, all I could say was it is a good start towards a very long process of reform. I welcome this as ‘step-one’ towards a new beginning in county administration. Godspeed!

Feel free to comment by clicking on the link below.

Meeker Sheriff Candidate Jon Thoma

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

October 15, 2014
By Ford Peterson
Dassel, MN

The upcoming Meeker County Sheriff’s election is important. For the first time in decades, the voters of Meeker have the opportunity to elect a Sheriff from two candidates, neither of which have an “Incumbent” moniker.

I make it no secret that I have supported Brian Cruze in this election. I also make it no secret that I have concerns about Jon Thoma becoming our Sheriff for the next four years. The controversy and rumor swirling about Thoma’s departure from Sacred Heart makes this a concern for every citizen in Meeker.

The Sheriff holds a special place of trust in Minnesota state law. The office of Sheriff is empowered with resources and entrusted to enforce our laws and protect our people from those who choose to break it. Our Sheriff must be a steadfast advocate for the rule of law and the protection of due process. This advocacy must start with good judgment and high moral character.

Jon Thoma becoming Sheriff is of great concern to me.

I took the time today to document just one of the many rumors by obtaining the Renville County Sheriff’s report regarding the apparent suicide of a Mr. David Wade Reiten on December 3, 1991 in Sacred Heart, MN. Jon Thoma was the Chief of Police for Sacred Heart, one of the first on the scene, and a frequent visitor to the home of Mr. Reiten’s estranged wife. The circumstances are horrific. The descriptions of the scene are offensively graphic. But many facts become known after an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident. Unfortunately, many questions remain. There is conflicting testimony. Most unfortunate is that the investigator failed to take a formal statement from Mr. Thoma. It is apparent on reading the investigator’s interrogation of the estranged wife that the Chief Deputy and Mr. Thoma had exchanged dialog that never made it to this report. Of particular note is the Chief Deputy’s statements during this same interrogation.

Grave concerns…

The report is 72 pages long. One of the most important elements of this report are in Thoma’s own words the day of the incident, a February 1992 interrogation of the estranged wife, and a friend in January 1992—all of which appear towards the end of the report. Comparing Thoma’s report to the investigator’s report of first-hand testimony collected from those at the scene and interrogated by independent investigators during the following 3-month investigation.


You can find a PDF of the Renville County Sheriff’s report here:



You can find my notes as to how I obtained this copy here:


Meeker County Sheriff’s Illegal Activity Exposed

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Meeker County Courthouse, Litchfield, MN
Statement delivered to County Commissioners on January 18, 2014, at 10AM
(click on link above to download PDF version)

Thank you for this opportunity to address the board. My name is Ford Peterson, Dassel Township. I am speaking on behalf of a group of Meeker citizens, Lori Musolf, Litchfield, Chris Schiroo, Greenleaf, and Ben Smith, Grove City.

With the exception of Commissioner Huberty, the November 2012 election selected you in preference over your predecessor. The reasons for voter discontent would require the rest of the day. Today, I want to focus on just one of those reasons and express my concern that nothing has changed.

Each year the office of our State Auditor performs an audit to provide us with assurance that your activities are appropriate—and legal. At the December 2012 Truth-in-Taxation hearing, I complained about the former commissioner’s failure to recognize and approve the annual audit for two consecutive years. As of today, make that three years. The previous board failed to discuss audit findings in public and failed to approve or rebut the auditor’s work. Administrator Paul Virnig informed me at that time that there is no statutory requirement to discuss or approve the audit. THIS board knows that the lack of statutory requirement does NOT take precedence over good business practice and the exercise of good judgment whenever possible. Yet this board continues to ignore good business practice by failing to discuss and approve our State Auditor’s 2012 findings issued last September.

On January 6, 2014, the Third Judicial District of Minnesota released a “Partial Summary Judgment Order” in the case of various citizen plaintiffs vs.Wabasha County and other parties. In that order, Judge James A. Fabian ordered:

3. Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED. The Safe Driving Class operated by the Wabasha County Sheriff’s Department is not legally authorized under Minnesota law and Wabasha County and the Sheriff’s Department shall be permanently enjoined from conducting all activities related to the Safe Driving Class until the program is legally authorized under Minnesota Law.

In our State Auditor’s 2012 Meeker County Audit report, issued last September, we find a recommendation on page 129 about County Attorney Spector’s Driver Awareness Class. On page 130: Other Findings and Recommendations:

Effect: The County’s Driver Awareness Class is unauthorized and in violation of Minn. Stat. §169.022.

As of yesterday, the Meeker County’s website contained links to a brochure for a similar class so I must presume that this illegal activity continues today. It has come to my attention that this class, characterized by one attendee as a discussion about the MN Vikings, confiscates $75 from its victims and illegally diverts public funds into the Sheriff’s budget. County Attorney Spector’s brochure describes the program as part of his office’s “Diversion Program.” What portion of the Sheriff’s budget contains the plunder? How many victims are there and how many dollars have been “diverted” from the public? It appears that by continuing to offer this “safety class,” Captain Thoma and Attorney Spector are essentially using public funds to buy votes in the upcoming 2014 election this November.

This board needs to institute immediate reforms, refund 100% of the victims of County Attorney Spector’s “diversions,” and provide an apology to the victims. I believe Sheriff Norlin, Captain Thoma, who administrates the program, and County Attorney Spector, should apologize for this county’s lack of good judgment.

This board must choose to act on the valuable recommendations arriving last September as part of the auditor’s annual report. Meeker expended considerable cost to obtain the auditor’s professional and independent opinion. The people deserve to benefit from the findings. The auditor described an abuse of power. This board must reform the practices of the former board, act on the auditor’s recommendations, and reform the Sheriff’s illegal activities.