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State hearing judge dismisses Pickar campaign complaint

Pat Pickar

A Fair Campaign Practices Act complaint filed against Crow Wing County sheriff candidate Pat Pickar was dismissed.

Baxter resident Michael Murphy filed a complaint Sept. 7 with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, alleging Pickar violated state law when he announced he would appoint Troy Schreifels as his chief deputy if elected.

In Murphy's complaint, he provided multiple examples of social media posts and other campaign advertisements describing Schreifels as Pickar's running mate and how Pickar and Schreifels are described as "Team Pickar."

Murphy, in his complaint, alleged Pickar's promise to appoint Schreifels to chief deputy violates Minnesota State Statute 211B.13, which prohibits promising anything of value, including appointment to a position of employment, to induce a voter to vote in a particular way. To support his argument, Murphy cited the 2018 Campaign Manual distributed by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. The manual includes an annotation to the law which states: "Promise appointments. No person, in order to promote a candidate's nomination or election, may directly or indirectly promise to appoint or employ another person."

Judge James E. LaFave disagreed with Murphy and dismissed his complaint Wednesday, Sept. 12, stating it did not support a prima facie violation of state law. Prima facie, in a lawsuit or complaint, means there is not enough evidence to prove the case, according to law.com.

In the order of dismissal document, the judge stated a promise of "valuable consideration," such as an offer of appointment to a position, must be made "to or for a person, in order to induce a voter ... to vote in a particular way."

The document stated, "Under this statute, Pickar would, for example, be prohibited from promising a position of employment to a person in order to induce that person to vote for him. Here, Murphy has not alleged that anything of 'valuable consideration' was promised to the voters at large when Pickar announced his choice for chief deputy. The elements necessary to constitute bribery are therefore missing. Moreover, Pickar does not have the authority to appoint the chief deputy on his own. If elected, he may name his choice for the position, but approval of the appointment ultimately rests with the (Crow Wing) county board."

"The ruling is exactly what I expected," Pickar said in a telephone interview Thursday. "The Pickar for Sheriff team looked into state statute prior to announcing Troy Schreifels ... as my chief deputy if I win this election. The campaign manual is very vague and according to state statute we knew we were not in violation.

"Our team will continue to run a positive campaign. Our continued focus is letting the public know about our vision and goals of the sheriff's office which have been mental health, sex and drug trafficking, safety of our children and reimplementing the K9 unit and community policing.

"The biggest reason I announced Troy as my chief deputy was I wanted to be transparent with the public from the start on who my selection would be. The thing about Troy is I truly believe he mirrors my compassion and dedication to our community and that's why I selected him. I do know ultimately it is the county board's decision to approve whoever my chief deputy selection would be and we knew this going into this."

Pickar and Capt. Scott Goddard of the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office are running for the sheriff position in November's election. Current Sheriff Todd Dahl and his Chief Deputy Dennis Lasher announced they will retire at the end of the year.

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