Did County Sheriff cross the line? - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Did County Sheriff cross the line?

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WABASHA, Minn. (KTTC) -- A move by the Wabasha County Sheriff has drawn some criticism after buying two new squad cars earlier this year without informing the county board first.  But did that purchase actually violate county policy?

The Wabasha County policy has to do with how the County Board spends tax revenue.  In the case of the two new squad cars, they were purchased with funds from two separate accounts, a forfeiture fund and a seizure fund for traffic offenders... not taxpayer money.

County Commissioner Deb Roschen says withdrawing from that seizure account is illegal and "at the very least unethical." Also explaining the state auditor is trying to trying to stop such accounts from being used for those types of purchases.

According to the County Attorney, there are state statutes giving Sheriff Rodney Bartsh authority to use those funds for law enforcement purposes - which he did.   And with the two current squad cars reaching 170-thousand miles, the sheriff made the choice to upgrade.

"So, in my opinion, since the sheriff controls the money, and since it's not tax revenue funds, I don't think our county policy applies," said Wabasha County Attorney Jim Nordstrom.

The Wabasha County policy states with purchases of $5,001 to $50,000 there will need to be at least two bids and has to be run past the county board.

However, the sheriff's squad cars are chosen in a bidding process from the state... so the county sheriff doesn't have to get independent bids.

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