Ramsey County Commission questioned again about LEC Board decisions, actions

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Ramsey County Commissioner Bill Mertens speaks as Commissioner Ed Brown and Commission Chair Myrna Heisler listen at the commission meeting held Monday, May 2 at 8 a.m.

Emotions ran high more than once at Monday’s meeting in the courthouse as the Ramsey County Commissioners attempted to take care of the county’s business.

The first episode followed along with Paul Deegan’s comments during Visitors and Delegations. He questioned the commission about recent events at the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center directing his questions to one commissioner.

“I have questions about the security audit. When is it scheduled or has it been held already?”

“When was the board notified of the escape?”

“Were you or the board part of the decision to not let the public know about the escape?”

“Why did the administration downplay the seriousness of the escape?”

Commissioner Ed Brown did his best to answer each question Deegan was throwing at him but he reminded Deegan that he was just one member of the board of directors of the Law Enforcement Center.

Deegan questioned the action of removing Commissioner Bill Mertens from the LEC board [back in August of 2014] and brought up a newspaper article from June 11, 2015, that read the “LEC beefing up security following escape.”

He also held up another newspaper article, this one from the Devils Lake Journal from 1981 when some in the community were questioning the facility’s future.

Then Mertens jumped into the discussion by openly stating that the inmates in the jail were escaping because they were not happy there, that they were not contented, making reference to having rights to making telephone calls and purchasing items they needed at the “commissary” as if these rights were being denied to them.

He stated that in the past 20 years “they never had these problems before.”

Commissioner Myrna Heisler took issue with those statements and let Mertens know that she didn’t think it was appropriate to expect jail personnel to make inmates happy or contented.

Deegan challenged Heisler  that she go “back there” and spend some significant time at the jail to see what is going on there.

“I have no intention of spending time behind bars,” Heisler said.

Then she thanked Deegan for his comments asking if he had anything more to say and turned the focus to portfolio reports from the commissioners.

The issue was brought up once more by Commissioner Mark Olson who made a statement saying that if Mr. Deegan is so concerned about the LEC he should know that it is a five-county center and Ramsey County is merely one of the five counties. If he has questions about the Law Enforcement Center, he should go to the LEC Board meetings where he could get the answers to his questions rather than continuing to bring them up here, over and over again.

Olson continued to say that for the first time in a long time they had full staff at the LEC and full staff at 9-1-1. “The Center is functioning well,” Olson stated. “He’d know that if he went to those meetings.”

“That’s all I have to say about this,” he added in conclusion.

Then as the meeting was nearing its conclusion Mertens voiced his displeasure that Heisler had changed the date of the Ramsey County meeting from Tuesday, May 3 to Monday, May 2.

He questioned Heisler’s process and right to change the meeting date. She explained that because of the State Water Commission meeting to be held at 9 a.m. in Carrington on Tuesday morning that would specifically address Devils Lake levels and the outlets, she thought it was important that as many commissioners who could should be able to attend that meeting.

She had contacted all the department heads, e-mailed everyone on the agenda and telephoned all the commissioners to notify them of the change. “I felt the Devils Lake Advisory Committee meeting in Carrington was important and that we shouldn’t miss it,” she said.