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Will litigation with state auditor affect Wright County bond rating?
Feb. 29, 2016

BY IVAN RACONTEUR
Herald Journal
Editor

WRIGHT COUNTY, MN – Wright County Board, during Tuesday’s meeting, discussed concerns that pending litigation might affect the county’s bond rating.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto’s office is conducting the county’s 2015 audit, while at the same time, Otto is suing Wright County, along with Becker and Ramsey counties, regarding the authority to conduct county audits.

Chief Deputy Attorney Brian Asleson said this creates at least an appearance that there may be a conflict of interest, which could affect the county’s bond rating, and he recommended the county send a letter to Otto’s office expressing Wright County’s concern about this.

Asleson said, due to the pending litigation, the county attorney’s office can’t communicate directly with Otto’s office.

He said the letter should be signed by the board chair or by the auditor/treasurer.

Commissioner Charlie Borrell said he would like to meet with members of Otto’s staff and get their assurance that the pending litigation will not affect the way the audit is handled. Borrell said there is a political motive in the litigation.

Board Chair Pat Sawatzke said he would prefer to meet with Otto, rather than her field staff, although he admitted this is unlikely to occur.

“We are all supposed to be here representing the taxpayers,” Sawatzke said, expressing his wish that the issues could be resolved without litigation.

Borrell said he would support sending a letter if it included a request to meet with representatives from Otto’s staff.

Commissioner Mark Daleiden indicated he was not in favor of asking for a meeting.

“I’m just concerned about poking the bear,” Daleiden said.

His motion to send a letter to Otto, signed by the board chair, expressing the county’s concern about the potential conflict of interest and affect on the county’s bond rating, passed 4-1, with Sawatzke, Daleiden, and commissioners Chris Husom and Mike Potter in favor, and Borrell opposed.

Odds and ends
In other business, the board:

• approved an agreement with the City of Delano for two dynamic speed signs that have been installed along Wright County Road 30 at a total cost of about $13,000 shared equally between the city and county.

• approved two requests from the City of Montrose to allow townhome associations to acquire tax-forfeited common areas (Rock Brook and Ridgemont townhome associations).

• heard an update regarding a suicide awareness bench that was placed in front of the Wright County Government Center using private donations. A second bench will likely be purchased in the spring, using funds left over after the first bench was purchased.

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