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Emmer campaign stiffs Kandiyohi Co. out of $1,400 during recount

An unidentified election judge sorts and hand counts ballots Nov. 29 at the Kandiyohi Co-unty office building in Willmar. The county has not been paid by the Emmer campaign for its services during the recount. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR -- Sam Modderman doesn't know exactly how many hours he and his staff spent preparing a cache of documents requested by Tom Emmer during the governor's recount. But he knows the county hasn't been paid for the work.

"We completed all the requests, but no, we haven't gotten paid for them all," the Kandiyohi County Auditor said.

It's a common story that's been reported in other counties who rushed to prepare documents requested by the Emmer campaign but then didn't get paid for the work.

Modderman said he spent more time at the office than with his family over Thanksgiving in order the meet the request for documents.

"They were a little demanding," he said.

Kandiyohi County was reimbursed $58 by Emmer and Mark Dayton's campaign for an initial request for documents. But Emmer then requested a list of documents including voter registrations and absentee ballot applications with firm instructions to meet deadlines or risk legal action.

Modderman's staff gathered the information, scanned hundreds of documents into a computer file, put it on a CD and then told the Emmer campaign they could have the CD once they paid a $1,400 bill, based on a rate of 25 cents per document.

The Emmer camp never picked up the CD.

"We spent a lot of time getting that information ready. It'd be nice to get something for it," Modderman said.

Because Dayton requested that they receive only information the county sent Emmer, Modderman didn't send a bill to the governor-elect. If the county would've sent the CD to Emmer they would've also sent a CD to Dayton for the same $1,400 cost.

Modderman said he doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about the unpaid bill, he's just glad the recount is over. If there's a recount in the future, he said his office will estimate the cost, send a bill and "make sure we've got the money in hand before we do all the work."

That's kind of what Swift County Auditor Byron Giese did this year.

Burned by the lack of payment two years ago during the Senate recount "when we did all that work and we made all those copies and never got paid a dime," Giese pretty much ignored the requests for documents he got this year from the gubernatorial candidates.

As a result, his county isn't out any money.

He got the same nasty e-mails other county auditor's did about providing documents by certain days, but Giese bluntly said he disregarded them. He said he was too busy providing election data to the state and preparing for the recount to deal with the candidates' requests.

In Meeker County, Auditor Barbara Loch spent days gathering documents and making paper copies of the data requested by candidates.

She sent Emmer and Dayton each a bill for $2,135, which was the total estimated cost to the county for gathering and preparing the documents. She told them they could have the information once the bill was paid.

Even though Emmer requested the information, he never responded once the invoice was sent. Dayton requested his copies, however, and paid the $2,135 bill. Loch said she is reimbursing Dayton $450 because the actual cost was less than estimated.

Even though Dayton is covering the cost of the county's research, Loch said Dayton was the only one who actually received the documents and therefore was the only one who should pay.

She's happy the county's costs were covered.

Loch said, however, Dayton's representatives are now saying they only wanted copies of information that the county sent to Emmer and are questioning their payment of the full bill for all the county's time to prepare the documents.

Modderman said he recently received a letter instructing him to submit unpaid bills from the Emmer campaign to the Republican Party.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750