Benoit asked to address ‘corruption’ statement he made on Facebook
By Kristen Miller
MEEKER COUNTY, MN As newly elected Meeker County Commissioner Tim Benoit of Dassel, joined the board at its first meeting of the year Tuesday, he was asked to address accusations made against the county on his Facebook page.
The county board meeting was business as usual until the end of the meeting when Benoit (3rd District) was asked by County Board Member Jim Swenson (1st District), about a comment Benoit made on his Facebook page accusing the county of corruption.
Benoit said the statement was derived from information that was made available to him at some meetings he attended, specifying the Meeker County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).
The term “corruption,” Benoit told the board, was in reference to the procedures at meetings, particularly the incompatibility of offices with two county commissioners serving on the HRA board, which Benoit said he believes is still a correct assessment.
He said it was not a “blanket statement” for the county and that the “rank and file do a tremendous job,” which in turn makes him proud to be a county board member.
“[I don’t] believe any of us in the county is corrupt,” Swenson said, noting he thought the statement was libelous and was clearly offended by it.
Benoit explained that he was surprised when he attended an HRA meeting in August to find there were a lot of “unanswered questions,” particularly regarding an investigation of alleged assault at the Dassel Apartments, which he called “incomplete.”
Benoit questioned the credibility of the investigating agency, which in this case was Wright County. The investigation was transferred from Meeker County to avoid a conflict of interest.
County Attorney Stephanie Beckman told Benoit he is entitled to his own opinion and advised against anyone making judgments on criminal prosecution cases due to the complexity of them.
Beckman said she believes government should be open and transparent, but that disagreeing with a particular case doesn’t mean the outcome was wrong.
“There are so many steps in [criminal prosecution cases] that need to be taken very carefully,” Beckman said.
Benoit stated there are issues county-wide that he hopes will be resolved over time.
“I have come here to serve District 3 and do a good job at it,” Benoit said, noting there have been concerns voiced by residents and this is an opportunity to answer some of the questions.
The board appointed Board Member Dave Gabrielson (2nd District) as chair, Swenson as vice chair, and Benoit as reading clerk.
The board also approved the committee appointments for 2011, depositories, appropriations, and legal publishing through the Litchfield Independent Review.
Odds and ends
In other business, the county board:
• set a public hearing for Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. to vacate a portion of CSAH 21 in Kingston Township. The resolution is due to an incorrect legal description of an easement that the county obtained in 1969, when a portion of the road was built.
• approved the final payment of a completed grading project on 640th Avenue in Ellsworth Township near Greenleaf Lake.
The final payment is $304,485.
It was noted that this project was funded by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Road Account and was a township project that had to go through the county in order to use county state aid funding (gas tax dedicated to roads).
This was contingent on final approval by the county attorney, who will verify the payee.
• was told by County Highway Engineer Ron Mortensen that he would propose a maintenance contract based upon commissioner approval to present to the townships regarding sign replacement for township signs. Each township will be responsible for its own replacement policy and the cost of the signs.
Updated signs with the new reflective requirements must be installed by 2015. He noted that the average cost of each sign will be about $250 to replace, which includes sign and labor costs.
• approved membership dues to Minnesota Transportation Alliance for 2011, in the amount of $1,515.