Update September 4, 2015: Apparently the lawmakers' allegations were simply bluster, as we report in Kelly and Mack back off from filing complaints, will pay fines for naughty parking citations.
Bluestem must confess that our first reaction to the Rachel Stassen-Berger story, Citation: two lawmakers caught ‘making out’ in park; lawmakers: ‘completely false’ and a ‘lie’, was to joke about it on social media.
The incongruity of the mental imagine of state representatives Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, and Tim Kelly, R, Red Wing, making out in a car at 4:30 p.m. in a public park (or even meeting there to swap a document) invited such mirth.
But Facebook friend and Gustavus Adolphus College computer science and math professor Max Hailperin commented in a discussion of the article:
Indeed. It is all well and good that the sheriff has such faith in his deputy, but in the face of such a serious allegation against that deputy, he ought to treat it with corresponding seriousness. He ought to request the county attorney name an investigator unconnected to the Sheriff's Department to conduct a through, transparent investigation into the allegations against the deputy. That investigation would presumably not be limited to the statements by the three parties, but would also examine any evidence that might tend to corroborate either version of the events, such as communication between the deputy and dispatch, Mr. Kelly's photos, and any textual communication between Mr. Kelly and Ms. Mack from before or after the incident.
Hailperin is referencing these parts of the Pioneer Press story:
Kelly said he had had simply met Mack to receive some documents when an officer approached their vehicle about a parking violation.
“When we met, a park ranger approached my vehicle and told me I was double-parked. I disputed his characterization and got out of the car to take a picture. He became visibly agitated and returned to his own car,” Kelly said in a statement to the Pioneer Press. “Approximately ten minutes later, he returned to my vehicle with a parking ticket citing a nuisance. When I asked what that meant, he responded ‘whatever I want it to mean.’”
Mack released a similar statement: “Last week, I received a citation for a nuisance. Subsequently, I have been told the officer wrote in his notes — information that I’ve requested, but has not yet been made public to me — statements that are completely false and inappropriate (and apparently were obtained illegally). I will be filing a complaint with the sheriff’s office regarding the officer’s egregious and false statements.”
Kelly said he met with Mack on his way through town to pick up some documents regarding an Owatonna-based health plan. . . .
Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said there was nothing unusual about the report and his deputy was not out of line.
“We’re going to agree to disagree,” he said of the lawmakers’ accusations. “The facts will come out as to what the deputy saw.”
Leslie said the deputy was simply enforcing the county ordinance in a well-trafficked park.
“We have families and children running around, so we just want to have some decorum there,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
Concerning the details in Mack and Kelly’s statements about the officer’s actions: “This is what park rangers do. They patrol,” Leslie said. “I have no reasons to doubt the ranger and the facts he’s reporting. I stand behind him 100 percent.”
Stassen-Berger reports that Mack intends to file a complaint, but notes that the documents related to the citations are public records, legally obtained.
While the titillating elements of the story are stroking the imaginations of Minnesotans--or making us reach for the mind bleach--Bluestem thinks that the more important story here is about public trust for law enforcement.
Although Mack and Kelly might have been taking their white privilege (along with their spouses' trust) for granted, if their claims are true--and can be documented--then perhaps all members of the Minnesota legislature might pause before dismissing other claims of police misbehavior, including those episodes prompted by racial prejudice and systemic inequity.
Already, that connection's been made by the twitterati, with riffs on the #BlackLiveMatter hashtag:
Similar points are being made by some readers in the comment section of the Stassen-Berger article:
raflw: So law enforcement can lie about arrest situations, eh Republicans?
Might make you wonder what they say sometimes, when they arrest people of color. A bit more critical eye towards statements by law enforcement in questionable situations of ordinary citizens could/should be supported by the #gop. We shall see if this goes beyond the purely personal for these two lawmakers.
Heywood Jablowme [BSP note: how original]: Already been said, but bears repeating. Assuming the two representatives are telling the truth, that means the officer lied. Now substitute two 20-something minorities in the car when the cop decides to walk up on them. Would anyone believe them that the cop just made something up? Would the two people who were ticketed in this story believe two minorities that made the same claim?
If the deputy's report stands, then Mack and Kelly should apologize to the Dakota County Sheriff's Department, while making amends to their spouses, families and colleagues. This doesn't rise to level of seriousness of former Duluth DFLer Kerry Gauthier caught with a 17-year-old in a wayside rest, but the behavior certainly doesn't live up to virtues Mack and Kelly seem to profess.
Whichever way the truth takes the tale--law enforcement or spousal misbehavior--the episode leaves Minnesota a little less nice. Perhaps we might consider ways to improve the cultures of both law making and enforcing in the state.
Meanwhile, enjoy the humor.
Images: Kelly and Mack.
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