ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Renville County Board members take County Attorney David Torgelson to task

Commissioner criticizes county attorney for not being timely in getting work done for county. County Attorney said criticism caught him off guard. Office is getting its work done, and keeping up with it, he responds.

Dave Torgelson, Renville County Attorney
David Torgelson
Renville County

OLIVIA — Members of the Renville County Board of Commissioners took County Attorney David Torgelson to task after he delivered a monthly update and annual report to them at their meeting on Tuesday.

Commissioner Randy Kramer told the county attorney that he’s received complaints from department heads in the county that work is not getting done. The commissioner said that the attorney’s office is not being timely in completing work for the county.

And, he said that the county attorney’s office is not handling work on behalf of the county, such as drainage and other issues, that county attorneys in neighboring counties are performing. Renville County is outsourcing legal work, he said.

Portrait of Randy Kramer, 2022 chairman of Renville County Board in Renville County, Minnesota
Randy Kramer
Contributed

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re friends and I’m not going to run you down, but you are not doing your job, period. I expect better, period,” said Commissioner Kramer after outlining his concerns.

“I hope you take what Commissioner Kramer said to heart,” board chair Commissioner Bob Fox said after asking if other commissioners wanted to comment.

Torgelson replied that he would take the criticism to heart.

“In addition, I can probably be better about supplying information to the media as well as posting on the website and so on, on some of the bigger cases,” he told the commissioners.

Commissioner Greg Snow voiced his agreement with the concerns raised by Kramer.

Reached one day after the meeting, Torgelson said he had been caught “flat-footed” by the criticism and should have done a better job of responding to it at the time. He said the office has to deal with different priorities, but is getting its work done.

“Without condemning Commissioner Kramer, I do feel we’re keeping up,” Torgelson said.

He added that the sheer number of cases has kept the office very busy, and that the workload is about to grow. There are a number of jury trials, including a murder case going forward now that the pandemic moratorium on jury trials is ending. “There’s quite a backlog of those so it will be very busy for a long time,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Torgelson agreed that his office does not handle some duties as Kramer stated. Drainage is such a large issue in the county that outside help is needed, he said.

“I do feel I work hard on the cases that we do in our county,” Torgelson told the West Central Tribune.

Kramer began his criticism by saying that he has been questioned about the performance of the county attorney by members of the public. After sleepless nights thinking about this, he said he decided he had a responsibility as a commissioner to speak publicly about his concerns.

“I want to be completely transparent and put it out there that the public should know what you’re doing, because right now they don’t,” he said. “They all think you’re doing a fine job and I feel differently.”

At the bequest of the commissioners, the county attorney has been providing monthly updates on the progress of a number of issues they have asked to be addressed. They range from a recommendation for regular meetings with the Renville County Sheriff’s Office on criminal investigations to requests for legal action on the cleanup of the former Buffalo Lake ethanol plant and correcting the property boundaries at the Lake Allie County Park.

Torgelson reported progress on the concerns during the commissioners’ meeting. He said meetings are ongoing with the Sheriff’s Office. He reported that one individual has been criminally charged in connection with items taken from the former ethanol plant, and that charges are likely against another. Survey work has now been completed and negotiations began to resolve the park boundary issues, he said.

The county attorney’s annual report showed that criminal and civil actions by the County Attorney’s Office have remained steady through the past five years. Last year the office was involved in 396 criminal cases involving adults and 103 involving juveniles, similar to levels in previous years. It also remained active in child support (44), children in need of protection (38), civil commitments (13) and a host of other civil cases on behalf of county departments.

He was questioned about 49 cases brought to the County Attorney’s Office in 2020 from law enforcement agencies throughout the county that the office declined to prosecute. He told the West Central Tribune that the office and the various agencies are usually in agreement on the decisions and they are not a point of acrimony. The agencies give the County Attorney’s Office the chance to make the final decision on whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a case forward.

What To Read Next
Mike Clemens, a farmer from Wimbledon, North Dakota, was literally (and figuratively) “blown away,” when his equipment shed collapsed under a snow load.
Volunteers lead lessons on infusing fibers with plant dyes and journaling scientific observations for youth in Crow Wing and Olmsted counties.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met on Jan. 5, 2023, to consider the application for Summit Carbon Solutions.
Qualified Minnesota farmers will receive dollar-for-dollar matching money to purchase farmland.