Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Chairperson comments on investigation


February 1, 2018

At the end of the Carlton County Board of Commissioners adjourned meeting January 22, Chairperson Sue Zmyslony read a prepared letter she had written. This followed an investigation of County Attorney Thom Pertler’s behavior and his ability to run the county attorney’s office. Articles have appeared in regional newspapers and a story has been presented on a television news broadcast.

Jana Peterson of the Pine Journal confirmed she received a tip about this investigation and had used the Freedom of Information Act to access the report.

The letter of Zmyslony reads:

“Due to the recent attention and questions from the public following the county’s investigation into issues pertaining to the county attorney, as chairperson of the board I am compelled to provide a brief statement which I would want the record to reflect.

“As many of you are aware, the county board hired the Ratwik, Roszak and Maloney law firm, which specializes in several labor law related areas of practice and employee investigations, to conduct an investigation in response to recent concerns regarding the office of County Attorney Thom Pertler. Mr. Pertler was given the opportunity to respond to the concerns during the course of two meetings with the attorney assigned to conduct the investigation. The county commissioners and Mr. Pertler were each provided a redacted copy of the report in December 2017, prior to the board’s setting of Mr. Pertler’s 2018 salary.

“As many of you are also aware, Mr. Pertler is an elected official and not a county employee. The board has no disciplinary authority over the county attorney position. The board, however, does set that office’s budget and has some responsibility for ensuring that all county offices use their budgeted resources in a manner that serves the public’s best interests. With that responsibility, the board is not precluded from expressing its concern and disappointment regarding Mr. Pertler’s recent conduct and performance as the leader of that office and manager of those tax dollars.

“The county attorney’s office has the potential to guide and influence daily so many aspects of our local county government. To that end, the county attorney’s office has a significant impact on county business generally, including the county’s relationship with other agencies, such as the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. The dependability, timeliness, integrity and trustworthiness of the county attorney’s office, as well as all other county officials and their offices, is critical to the well-being of our citizens and our county employees who serve them.”

Zmyslony asked if it was appropriate for the board to direct the county auditor to draft a letter to Pertler. Commissioner Proulx then stated the county attorney was present at the board meeting and no letter was needed. No action was taken.


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