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

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Changes continue at County Extension Service

 

August 22, 2019



Longtime head of the Minnesota Extension Service in Carlton County, Troy Salzer, has left and is now employed in St. Louis County, handling Extension Services education for farmers and guiding 4-H activities. At present he has no by-products responsibility in that position.

At this time many meetings have been held with County staff re-evaluating the mission of the Extension program, reassigning staff duties, and hiring needed staff. “For the time being Donna Lekander of the Carlton County Collaborative will supervise the program,” explained County Coordinator Dennis Genereau, “This continues to take a lot of time. The basic staffing for the Extension program is financed through the management of the Biosolids and ash programs for soil improvement in the County farm lands. Someone will manage that program as their primary duty. This will ensure prompt service to local farmers and all requests treated the same.”

Information for the following article was found in an investigative report concerning former Carlton County Agriculture Extension Educator Troy Michael Salzer by Aitkin County Investigator Steve Cook. The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office was asked to investigate complaints received by Sheriff Kelly Lake of Carlton County on January 12, 2018.

Salzer headed the Extension Service locally arranging for lots of grant money to flow to local farmers. Experimental projects have been carried out to see what types of crops and soil conditions would thrive in our region. Part of his responsibility was to run the by-products program originating from material produced by the WLSSD and spread on farm fields. Ash and lime was distributed in that same network and has been produced by Minnesota Power, Potlatch of Bemidji, and Sappi.

Complaints investigated as listed in the case document have been:

1. Troy Salzer has a tractor, two pickups and a four wheeler at his farm property which was purchased with county dollars. Reportedly Troy uses the equipment for his own personal use.

2. Troy Salzer oversees the Carlton County byproducts program, and as such, he appears to allow for special privileges or benefits to certain farmers, with respect to the delivery of various byproduct materials.

3. A van owned by Carlton County was used as a personal vehicle by former Extension Office employee.

4. Troy Salzer may have a private business, Bio Energy Consultants, LLC, and is using county resources and staff to assist him in doing his private business.

5. Troy Salzer recently purchased a substantial amount of fertilizer, with county dollars, and he is storing that fertilizer at his farm, along with fertilizer that he personally purchased for his farm.

Numerous County employees, Extension employees, people involved with the Bio Solids program, and farmers in the area were contacted. The investigation is documented in eleven pages for case #18000101 with extensive personal comments given in numerous interviews.

Investigator Cook reported, “On February 9, 2018 I met with Amanda Vee Rosebrock, who stated she has been the Carlton County Extension Office Manager since August 2017. Amanda stated in the end of November 2017, it came to her attention that Carlton County had a pre-paid account at the Moose Lake Co-op. Amanda stated shortly after that Troy told her he was going to pick up some fertilizer, which she believed was for himself, but then got an invoice from the Moose Lake Co-op that he had purchased fertilizer with the money Carlton County had in their account at the Moose Lake Co-op. Amanda showed me the statement from the Moose Lake Co-op in which $4,418.05 of fertilizer was purchased on November 28, 2017, leaving a balance of $376.23, which the county got back. The amount of fertilizer on the receipt was 27,950 pounds. Amanda stated she did not know anything about this account, since it was money put into it before she started. Amanda stated she questioned Troy about purchasing the fertilizer because she was not aware of any grants that Carlton County has going on at this time in which they would need fertilizer. Amanda stated Troy told her he also purchased $16,000.00 for himself, because it was a good deal. Amanda stated after questioning Troy about the purchasing of the fertilizer, when the county could have gotten the money back, he told her it may have been bad judgment on his part.”

“Amanda stated she believes the fertilizer Troy purchased with county money is being stored at his farm. Amanda stated Troy also has two county pickups and a tractor at his farm. Amanda stated she does not know what the past agreements have been between Troy and the county. Amanda stated she maybe questions these practices because she is new, but believes it could be a conflict if Troy is using county equipment for his personal use.”

When Investigator Cook interviewed Troy Salzer, Salzer stated that the Bio Solids and lime program has treated farmers fairly and shows no preferential treatment. The John Deere tractor is stored at his farm and has been used in particular grant program work and for spreading biosolids and lime. He did not know why a 2004 Honda Foreman ATV was registered in his name. The County had paid for the machine. Salzer said it was flood damaged at his Sturgeon Lake farm and is now not usable. It had been used there to monitor experimental plots. He did say that he had used the John Deere tractor and Extension pickups for his personal use but provides his own fuel and makes necessary repairs. Extension fertilizer has been stored at his farm and is so marked because the Extension program does not have its own storage facilities.

Salzer said he has no knowledge of Bio Energy Consultants but had done private consulting in the past on his own time without using county vehicles. He said he had to fill out forms with Minnesota Extension in order to do this work.

The final finding of Investigator Steve Cook was that the “Case was exceptionally cleared.” In legal terms, exceptionally clearing a case means law enforcement did not think the case was worth pursuing and the case has been closed. At this time no charges have been filed. Cook’s investigative report was sent to the Minnesota State Auditor.

Investigator Cook added a supporting narrative on May 12, 2018 and it reads:

“On May 18, 2018 I spoke with Troy. Troy stated the Honda Foreman is at his residence of 3457 Sandy Lake Road, Barnum, MN. Troy stated on March 21, 2018 he transferred the registration of the Honda Foreman out of his name and into the name of the Carlton County Extension Office.”

The Carlton County Transportation Department has confirmed that the John Deere tractor bought to do Extension Services work is now under department control.

 

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