A district court judge Tuesday dismissed Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher’s appeal against the county board’s 2021 budget.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)
Fletcher failed to show that the board’s budget for the sheriff’s office was “arbitrary, capricious, or oppressive,” wrote Judge Ronald Abrams in his order. Fletcher has also failed to demonstrate that the board “failed to adequately reflect the scope of the responsibilities and duties of the … Sheriff’s Office” or that the board failed to consider his qualifications or experience in approving the county supplementary budget.
“This court is prohibited from replacing the Ramsey County Board’s judgment with its own judgment unless arbitrariness is found or the sheriff’s duties and responsibilities are not adequately considered,” Abrams wrote in his 19-page warrant.
It was about $ 2.54 million that Fletcher had requested for his department’s budget for 2021 – a request the board declined.
The board decided to cut its overall budget for 2021 because of “the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ramsey County’s residents,” Abrams wrote, noting that Ramsey County’s unemployment rate more than tripled as a result of the pandemic . The Ramsey County Board wasn’t alone in its decision to keep taxes unchanged for 2021. Anoka, Dakota, Scott, and Washington counties have also decided to increase property tax by 0 percent.
Although Fletcher argued that he was “quickly dismissed” by the board at a meeting on August 27, 2019 on the budget, “a review of the video of that meeting shows that Sheriff Fletcher was not interrupted during his remarks,” Abrams wrote. “He could use whatever time he wanted for his presentation. … Sheriff Fletcher was far from being “quickly dismissed” but was treated politely and professionally. “
Abrams also responded to Fletcher’s allegations that the Ramsey County Board “relied overly on the recommendations of County Manager Ryan O’Connor” in making its budget decision. “Sheriff Fletcher contrasts County Manager O’Connor’s experience as a county manager with Sheriff Fletcher’s extensive experience as a sheriff and in law enforcement,” Abrams wrote. “However … the Ramsey County Board consists of five very experienced county commissioners.”
Abrams recorded the number of years of service for each board member: Chairman Toni Carter, 15 years; Victoria Reinhardt, 23 years old; Rafael Ortega, 25, Jim McDonough, 19, and Mary Jo McGuire, 7.
“Five of the Ramsey County Commissioners have served with multiple sheriffs and multiple county managers,” Abrams wrote. “You have shown far more than a ‘summary’ of the responsibilities and duties of the sheriff’s office, the experience, qualifications and performance of the sheriff.”
Carter praised Abrams’ decision, calling it “well founded”.
His decision, she said in a statement, “affirms the integrity of the Ramsey County Board’s budgeting process, which takes into account the needs of all Ramsey County’s residents and taxpayers.” She invited Fletcher to work with the board of directors to “build trust, accountability and transparency throughout the sheriff’s office and throughout our organization – common goals that we must never deviate from,” she said.
Fletcher said Tuesday evening that before deciding whether to appeal the judge’s decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, he will wait for the board to decide whether to reimburse the sheriff’s office for its response to this year’s riot. That vote should be done in the next two weeks, he said.
The sheriff’s office has requested more than $ 868,000 from the county for the department’s unexpected personnel expenses related to responding to civil unrest or perceived threats following the January 6th Uprising in the U.S. Capitol, which included local protests and marches. The sheriff’s office also strengthened before and after the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis and after Daunte Wright was shot dead by a police officer in Brooklyn Center on April 11, he said.
“This is money we spent on defending the Capitol, the governor’s mansion, and other government goods here,” he said. “There have been threats at all state and local levels. Without the assurance of funding, we simply cannot continue to offer this type of protection. “
Fletcher added, “This would be a good opportunity for us to begin this new and ongoing relationship that Commissioner Carter is interested in.”