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Investigation finds claims against Meeker County Commissioners are 'unfounded'

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

LITCHFIELD -- An investigation by an outside agency has concluded that accusations of assault and harassment made against two Meeker County Commissioners are unfounded.

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There will be no charges filed against Commissioners Amy Wilde of Dassel and Wally Strand of Kimball, according to Meeker County Attorney Stephanie Beckman.

There will be no charges filed, said Beckman.

"It was a non-issue," said Wilde in a telephone interview Thursday from her home in Dassel. "I knew it would all come out in the wash eventually."

Wilde and Strand were accused of harassing and assaulting residents, including elderly tenants, of a subsidized housing complex in Dassel, and Wilde was accused of misconduct by a public official. There have been long-standing disagreements among members of the county's Housing and Redevelopment Authority board, of which Strand and Wilde are members.

"I knew right along that it was someone who just had a personal grudge," said Wilde. "It's part of the fun of being an elected official."

According to a press release issued by Beckman, HRA board member Darin Packard sent a letter to Sheriff Jeff Norlin on Oct. 13 alleging that Wilde had engaged in "official misconduct by a public official."

On Oct. 22 Norlin received another complaint that Strand and Wilde assaulted and harassed residents of the Dassel HRA-owned apartments.

The residents had been hearing rumors that their subsidized apartment complex was being shut down. Strand and Wilde went there to reassure residents that the facility was not in jeopardy of closing, according to Beckman.

In an interview in October, Wilde said she and Strand spent an afternoon at the Dassel apartments trying to squelch rumors that she and Strand and the rest of the Meeker County Board of Commissioners intended to shut down the apartments.

The rumors had reached a fever pitch by last fall and were causing distress to the residents who feared they were going to lose their housing.

Wilde said in October that she and Strand talked to residents and told them the county had no intention of closing the apartments. She stated emphatically that no assault or harassment took place.

On Thursday, Wilde said the investigation was initiated because "somebody made a false accusation against me."

She said she and Strand had to "wait it out and assume that the truth will come out."

In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, Beckman and Norlin referred the matter to the Wright County Sheriff's Office, which conducted a "full and complete investigation" into the allegations. According to Beckman the allegations were determined to be unfounded.

The investigation was then reviewed for possible charges by the Sherburne County Attorney's Office, which determined that insufficient evidence existed to go forward.

Wilde said there continue to be split votes on issues taken up by the Housing and Redevelopment Authority board but that work to improve housing is progressing.

The HRA received federal stimulus funds that are being used to improve weatherization and make handicap modifications to the building, she said.

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