When a local Wadena resident was scammed of $66,000, Wadena Police Sgt. Brandon Pearson wanted to help.
He was contacted by a local bank about the stolen money and worked with federal partners to find the ties in New York, New Jersey and Florida. The county then sought to prosecute and then extradite two identified individuals to return the money.
“I think it’s important to hear about the good work that law enforcement did in this case because it’s pretty extraordinary and it’s also an opportunity for a public service announcement for citizens to sort of be wary of scams,” as Wadena County attorney Kyra Ladd shared with county commissioners on Sept. 7.
While the scam occurred in December 2018, the process extended through the pandemic due to issues with attending hearings, according to Ladd. Both the resident’s $66,000 and the county’s costs of about $11,000 to extradite the individuals were recovered. Ladd said the outcome was unusual as most money and the people involved are “long gone” once law enforcement is involved.
The resident’s family were grateful for all their work and the return of the money. They shared gift cards with Ladd for $200, which the county will accept to add plants by the attorney’s office along with a plaque in honor of crime victims. County commissioners also thanked the police and attorney departments for their dedicated work and making the right decision to support residents. The planting project will begin in the spring.
The commissioners also:
Discussed county committee charters, including the building committee and management team that commissioners Murlyn Kreklau and Jon Kangas hope will include more discussions at the full board level. Both would also like a review of the committees to understand the costs and time involved and which ones are needed.
Approved renewing the liquor license for The Outpost.
Approved online election judge training with DS Solutions, which includes maintenance costs, changes requested and a per hour charge for the judges participating in the training. The final cost depends on the amount of judges and hours.
Approved two grants for low-income septic system replacement.
Approved Public Health advertising at the Cozy Theatre that addresses student vaping with the Tobacco Free Communities grant for $3,600.
Denied the proposed healthy snack day for 2021. The program usually delivers healthy snacks to county departments twice a year through grant funding.
Approved hiring child protection social worker Cheslee McDermond at $22.78 per hour.
Approved applying for a Sourcewell grant to go towards a county marketing campaign. This would include a website with professional photographs and design with information about moving to the county, available jobs, community information and stories from community members. The county’s share of the cost is $2,500 for social media, a newly formed website, brochures and print advertisements.
Approved a vehicle purchase for Human Services to replace a 2015 Chevy Equinox following a car accident. The cost of the new car will be covered through Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust dividend funds.
Approved applying for a grant to remodel the Friendly Rider building. The department will also request proposals/bids since the application requires an environmental assessment, conceptual design, floor plan and budget. The final cost is not determined, though the county would help with the local cost share of the project if the grant is received. The estimated county portion is $189,141.19. Kangas voted against the application due to the need for more strategic planning. Kreklau also voted against.
Tabled further discussion on the personnel policy on promotions, reclassifications and demotions. The personnel committee will review the policy again before presenting to the board.
Discussed adding a previously approved policy for county complaints to the county website. A form for submitting complaints is available online, with the forms going to county coordinator Ryan Odden. There is a “slow trickle” of complaints with about one to two forms submitted each month, according to Odden.
The board also had a closed session on a proposed settlement of a lawsuit with Nelson Auto Center and a second session for negotiation strategy on labor contracts.