McLeod County Board members reviewed May 19 complaints that Sheriff Scott Rehmann had used his county-issued vehicle inappropriately.
The conversation mostly revolved around a prepared document read by McLeod County Administrator Sheila Murphy.
“In 2017, Sheriff Rehmann participated in a discussion with County Attorney Michael Junge and Board Chair Joe Nagel, reminding him that the county provides a vehicle to (Rehmann) with anticipation that it will be used for official duties only,” the document states, “and that use of the vehicle as a means of transportation for other use is outside the scope of (his) official duties or duties of the office. During this meeting, it was discussed that Sheriff Rehmann was observed using his county-issued vehicle for personal use in December 2016.”
According to the document read by Murphy, a complaint had been filed alleging Rehmann had used a county vehicle to purchase holiday meal items at a market in Nicollet and a restaurant in Eden Prairie.
“The sheriff had driven from his personal residence in McLeod County to both of these locations without any relevant county-related business near either destination,” Murphy read.
It also references a second meeting held April 24, 2020, between Murphy and Rehmann.
“The sheriff shared that on April 16, 2020, he attended a protest ... at the governor’s residence,” the document reads. “He also shared that a county-provided vehicle was used to attend, along with a county-issued credit card to fuel the vehicle. In addition, a passenger who was not registered per the McLeod County Sheriff’s Office ride-along policy rode to and from the event with the sheriff.”
During the April 24 meeting, according to the document, Rehmann said that on April 10, 2020, he used a county vehicle and a county credit card to purchase fuel in Golden Valley. He said he was in the area to obtain an off-duty carry gun at Frontiersman Sports in St. Louis Park. Rehmann said he believes the use was justifiable and allowable county use, according to the document.
“Concern is held in understanding how a county-issued vehicle and a county credit card for fuel to obtain off-duty personal equipment is considered county-related use,” Murphy read.
Since the issue relating to the protest in April, County Board members and county staff “have continually been receiving” complaints from the public and staff. The concerns were discussed May 12, 2020, in a meeting with Rehmann, Board Member Paul Wright, Board Member Doug Krueger, McLeod County Attorney Michael Junge and Murphy.
“When asked, the sheriff also shared in the May 12, 2020, meeting that the county-issued vehicle is used for homeschool instruction in which he participates in providing,” Murphy said. “The instruction is provided in the Dassel-Cokato area, which is not in McLeod County.”
She noted that Rehmann had been notified of the meeting, and the document to be read, and that to the best of her knowledge Rehmann was not at the meeting digitally or in person.
Krueger said he and Wright moved to place the issue on the County Board agenda to allow other board members to review it and ask questions. He said he had received numerous phone calls from constituents and county residents about the issue, as well as employees. He said he was surprised by the number of complaints he heard.
“That’s how we got here today,” he said.
“(Rehmann) did say he wished people would come directly to him with the complaint, however we know it doesn’t always work that way,” Wright said. “As board members, we do not have any control over what the sheriff does, but we do control county expenditures and the property. And those expenditures must be for a public purpose. What we do from here — I think maybe we’ve seen strike one, we’ve seen strike two, and hopefully we don’t have to find out what happens with strike three as future decisions are made on county property or with county expenditures.”
Krueger said he has no problem with Rehmann attending any event.
“My problem is specified in this document, that he took a passenger in a county-owned vehicle,” he said. “That’s the issue.”
He referenced Minnesota Statute 387.29, which is also cited in the document read by Murphy. It allows county boards to, by resolution, furnish the sheriff of the county with necessary motor vehicles and supplies for the duties of office.
“We may furnish him a vehicle,” Krueger said. “That doesn’t mean we have to furnish him a vehicle.”
In the past, he added, he had spoken with Rehmann about the issue and was satisfied things would change.
“Now I’m a little bit disappointed,” he said.
Board Member Ron Shimanski said he had met with Junge to discuss the situation, and verified with the sheriff’s office that county vehicles are not to be used for personal business.
“There is no special privilege using a county vehicle,” Shimanski said. “We’ll anticipate that our sheriff will abide by those same regulations and respect the taxpayers of McLeod County.”
No official action was taken. The Leader reached out to Rehmann for comment.