Anger, frustration spill out as commission continues to be questioned, challenged

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
The Lake Region Law Enforcement Center has been in turmoil off and on since mid 2014 when personnel and financial issues came to a head.

The relatively uneventful and productive Ramsey County Commission meeting held Tuesday certainly didn’t stay that way.

Near the end of the agenda was the item allowing five minutes for each visitor or delegation to speak. The first to speak was Jessica Rayme Gillum who seized this opportunity to lecture the commissioners on human rights. Pacing back and forth in front of the gallery she sited numerous alleged sources who had claimed they had not been treated fairly or humanely by Lake Region Law Enforcement jail personnel. When she finished Commission President Myrna Heisler thanked her for speaking.

After the meeting’s end she spoke with the media pointing the finger directly at the LEC’s previous administration when relating an alleged incident approximately 10 years ago where a relative of hers, who was incarcerated in the Lake Region jail, was denied use of his asthma inhalers. None of the present members of the Ramsey County Commission were on the LEC Board at that time, including Bill Mertens, who was appointed in 2010.

Mertens no longer sits on the LEC board. As a county commissioner it was his responsibility to be apprised of and to keep the Ramsey County Commission informed of the state of affairs at the LEC. When the serious personnel and financial issues came to the forefront in 2014 the county learned they had not been kept adequately informed by their representative.

Then, going forward, as they attempted to deal with the issues, Mertens had not voted as the commission had directed him to vote as their representative. Therefore the commission removed him as their representative on the LEC Board and replaced him with Commissioner Ed Brown, who reluctantly accepted.

The second visitor to speak was Paul Deegan. Deegan’s wife was once the operations director for the Lake Region LEC, but she was fired from that position by the LEC Board of Directors in August of 2014.

Since February of 2016 he has been attending the Ramsey County Commission meetings and using the Visitors and Delegations portion of their agenda as a platform to ask questions of the commissioners about the operations of the LEC and to make comments about specific commissioners and their alleged involvement in his wife’s firing.

For the most part the commissioners are prohibited from responding to Deegan’s questions and comments due to pending litigation.

However, that doesn’t stop him from continuing to ask questions directing them to individual commissioners, specifically Heisler, Brown and Commissioner Mark Olson. Olson also sits on the Lake Region LEC Board representing the Ramsey County Commission.

The Lake Region LEC serves the counties of Ramsey, Benson, Towner, Eddy, and Nelson. Each county and the city of Devils Lake has one representative on the LEC Board, however, Ramsey County has two.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the County Commission as Deegan began to speak, Commissioner Heisler attempted to establish order by reprimanding Rayme Gillum who was laughing and making faces behind Deegan as he spoke to the commission.

It turned into a shouting match for a few moments until Heisler brought the gavel down and demanded order, threatening Rayme Gillum with expulsion.

“You will not use this venue to belittle the people on this commission,” Heisler said.