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Kandiyohi County Attorney: Beccue touts his experience as key factor

WILLMAR -- If this election were to be about one issue, Kandiyohi County Attorney Boyd Beccue would make it about experience.

"This job doesn't get easier over time," he said.

Yet his 20 years of experience as county attorney is not the issue that is shaping the election -- it's fox urine and its role in a 2008 misdemeanor assault case.

Beccue faces his first re-election opponent since he was elected in Willmar attorney Jennifer "Jenna" Fischer, who outpolled him in the August primary.

"The thing that's really surprising about this election is the extent some people want this to be about one issue," he said.

The 2008 case arose from a landowner trying to head off a homecoming prank on his land. He did that by confronting a group of teens on his neighbor's land and spraying them with diluted fox urine. The case garnered wide attention, but there's been a lot of misinformation about it, Beccue said.

Since he's been county attorney, he said, he's been responsible for more than 20,000 cases, including many serious felonies, but this is the case people seem to remember most.

"I have been protecting property rights for 20 years," Beccue said. "I prosecute trespasses whenever they come in." In fact, he added, he has helped local gravel pit owners work for stronger laws against trespassing.

"I'm required to charge cases based on the law and facts presented to me by law enforcement reports," he said.

Though the landowner said he'd had previous problems with toilet papering and pranks, "this was the first time any of the incidents had been brought to my office," Beccue said. "You can't assault one person for what someone else did to you."

A Sheriff's Department investigation identified 10 juveniles who were there, and they were charged, he said, but the law keeps their names confidential. All pleaded guilty and were punished, which included paying restitution to the person whose land they were on.

As to the cost to the county, he said, the incident was handled by county employees whose salaries are part of the budget.

Beccue said he's been asked if landowners can use force to protect their property. "Of course they can," he said, "but it has to be reasonable."

A county attorney doesn't have time to gauge public opinion before filing charges, he said, and it wouldn't be proper.

"I have to make decisions on the facts as best I understand them," he said. "If I only prosecuted cases based on what's popular, the people would not be well-served, and the public would not like that."

Beccue said he has managed many changes in his years in office. When he took office, the office's computers were not networked with each other or with other offices in the justice system.

He has worked to stay abreast of the most current technology and bring it to his office, including the use of e-charging to speed up filing of complaints and saving paper and printing costs, he said. "We're going to make this as paperless as possible."

Beccue said he has also saved the county money for years by handling ditch law and zoning issues himself. Some counties contract with outside attorneys to handle those issues.

Ditch law will be important in the coming years, he said, as benefits are re-determined for the drainage system around the Grass Lake project and as wind energy companies look for permission to cross ditches with their transmission lines.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340