John Weiss's article in the Rochester Post Bulletin, Frac-sand mining still contentious in Houston County, helps flesh out more of the details about the new complaints against Houston County Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan.
Bluestem had looked at earlier charges that led to his temporary suspension in Star Tribune digs into Houston Co tensions, employee harassment of mining opponents.
Weiss delineates the complaints:
Scanlan was suspended for five days last year (two days were dropped if he completed some actions) because a long investigation found he had retaliated against frac-sand opponents by trying to use zoning rules against them, shared confidential information with others and gave special treatment by advocating in behalf of others.
Now opponents have filed new three new ethics complaints against Scanlan with the county's Human Resources Department.
• Bryan and Sue Van Gorp and Cory and Jackie Baker contend that Scanlan has undue influence over the permitting of the Tracie Erickson mine near Rushford. "He misrepresented the facts of the case at various levels of government," they claim.
• Ken Tschumper contends that Scanlan was active in writing the mining ordinance that didn't pass while owning a non-conforming shale mine. He could gain financially from the ordinance, so he should have disqualified himself, Tschumper contends.
• Bruce Kuehmichel contends that Scanlan was derelict in his duties by not administering county ordinances that require reclamation plans and bonds. "The absence of a bond puts the county at great financial liability to assume the burden of reclaiming an abandoned mine," Kuehmichel said.
While all of the charges of conflict of interest and preferential treatment (especially of a mine owned by a Houston County deputy sheriff) are troubling, the final new complaint is particularly troublesome in light of the fact that the frac sand industry widely touts its reclamation projects (while downplaying the limit use to which reclaimed lands can be put).
If the development of mining--through the undermining of the will of Houston County citizens through harassment and intimidation--is largely in Scanlan's hands, what are we to think of his statement to the Post Bulletin:
. . .While Scanlan hasn't spoken about the complaints, he has in the past said the ordinance that is now in place is good and has worked well.
Reclaiming the land after mines closed "has never been a high priority for the county board," Scanlan said. And the county doesn't have the staff to do that kind of work, he said. . . .
Echoes of January's pro-frac sand hearing in St. Paul
Readers may recall that back in January when Tom Hackbarth's (R-Cedar) Mining & Outdoor Recreation Committee invited frac sand mining industry to inform them about stuff.
The "informational hearing," during which frac sand industry lobbyists whined about regulations, was greeted by outrage by the citizens who were not invited to speak about the issue, as we reported in Mining & Outdoor Wrecks Committee: Hackbarth's frac sand industry showcase.
Eventually, they were given about 15 minutes at the end of the hearing, after industry hogged the trough with five times as much room to share their oh-so-oppressed status with committee members, Wabasha City Council Member Lynn Schoen read the committee the riot act in Towns Not Being Heard In Frac Sand Mining Debate Says Wabasha City Councilwoman, according to a report by The Uptake.
None of the citizens shoehorned in at the last fifteen minutes were from Houston County, but the episode illustrates the same attitude held by some electeds that somehow Minnesota residents are somehow a nuisance when they raise questions about who is being served--people or corporate interests. Somehow, we doubt the torches will be doused anytime soon.
Cartoon: Angry citizens with pitchforks and torches, Simpsons' style.
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