Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Dec. 31, 2001
Commissioners argue over court losses
By John Holler
The Christmas Eve meeting of the Wright County Board was supposed to be conducted simply to pay final claims for 2001 and take care of year-end business.
Instead, it became a free-for-all of accusations, as commissioners clashed over the county's court losses to Superior Services.
The matter was put on the agenda by Commissioner Pat Sawatzke, who took Chairman Ken Jude to task for comments made after the Dec. 11 board meeting.
Sawatzke said Jude went "to great lengths to criticize me" and contended that the remarks were said after the meeting to a reporter.
These comments, when written in a news story, can be construed as being said at the meeting, instead of after the meeting where they were unable to be refuted.
Sawatzke then went on the offensive saying that Jude's comments about the number of people he thanked perhaps came from the fact that Jude wasn't thanked himself.
"There was a reason you weren't thanked," Sawatzke said. "It was because you didn't deserve to be thanked. Your thank-you needs to come from Superior Landfill."
Sawatzke continued by saying Jude has taken shots at the legal team on the case and stated the county has lost all three court battles over garbage issues, placing blame for the most recent loss not on lawyers, but on Jude himself.
"The reason we lost that court case is because . . . you walked into this room with a pre-written document (before the rezoning for Superior)," Sawatzke said.
"I've been on this board for 11 years and have yet to see someone come in here with a piece of paper telling me how they're going to vote. I don't know where it came from, but I know where it ended up - on white boards in federal court that would cover this wall behind us in five-inch letters," Sawatzke said.
"It was the foundation for the case against Wright County," Sawatzke added.
"And it was the root cause of the result - which is a mega-dump in Wright County that will pollute this county for decades to come.
When you're spouting off in the newspaper that Wright County is 0-3 (in court) . . . don't fault other people, when it is you who was most responsible," Sawatzke said.
Jude defended his actions, saying that he was never called to testify by either side in the case and that his prepared statement at the board meeting had been made to be sure it got in the minutes as his recorded opinion.
Jude then went on the offensive with Sawatzke, saying he can disagree with his opinions but that, in the end, they were true.
"You try to spin it around that it was a jury that decided Wright County was at fault," Jude said. "If our case was so strong, it would have won on its merits."
He defended his opinion that the record should reflect his feeling that the county never tried to compromise with Superior and claimed Sawatzke led an all-or-nothing approach that resulted in legal setbacks.
"I didn't believe the findings of fact would hold up in court and they didn't," Jude said.
"When you (Sawatzke) get something in your mind as a philosophy, whether it's compost or garbage, it's your way or the highway, and if somebody doesn't agree with you, you just continue to try to do what you want. I work for the people of Wright County, not you, Mr. Sawatzke," Jude said.
Commissioner Jack Russek joined in the fray, saying that the basis of Superior's case to the jury was that Wright County was trying to block out-of-state garbage as well as in-state waste from the facility - testimony that only was presented as coming from Jude.
The conversation finally died down after Jude and Commissioner Dick Mattson got into an argument over other zoning issues, but one thing was made painfully clear - for a meeting that was supposed to to short and routine, the final meeting of 2001 was far from either.
Howard Lake-Waverly Herald & Winsted-Lester Prairie