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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Excellent Investigative Work by Tom Lyden on Hennepin County Sheriff buying a Legislator Scandal

You can read the story and view yesterday's teaser and story here.

When Chanhassen state Senator Julianne Ortman went to work for her old friend, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, the FOX 9 Investigators started to keep a close eye on Ortman, and the time clock.

Julianne Ortman is one very busy woman. Holding down two taxpayer-supported jobs -- sometimes, it seems, at the same time. For the past five years, she's been a state senator from Chanhassen.

Last month Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek hired his old friend as his chief financial administrator, at a salary of $91,000 dollars a year.

But the FOX 9 Investigators obtained Ortman's resume and found no hands-on accounting experience or degrees. We also discovered the job description was changed to include a law degree, which Ortman does have.

We asked Ortman if she feels she’s qualified for the job.

"I am qualified for this job and I'm doing a very good job" she said.

But is she doing justice to both jobs -- especially as the legislature counts down the final hours.

The FOX 9 Investigators followed the paper trial, asking the sheriff's office for Ortman's time card. Her original time card for the week of April 8 shows she worked from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. everyday.

But on April 10th we found her at the capitol, when her time card said she was actually at the sheriff's office.

“I wasn't even informed as a new employee that I had to have a time card. I didn't know" claimed Ortman.

Her response was puzzling -- the new financial officer wasn't doing her own paperwork.

"Another manager filled out a generic time card for me because I was a new employee" she told us.

After we began asking questions, the sheriff's office corrected Ortman's time card, and Ortman says she's been very precise ever since.

"When there was a request for my time sheets I made sure that what I knew to be my flex time from that second week was accurately recorded."

Hamline Law Professor David Schultze is an expert on government ethics.

“She has a lot of problems to sort through at this point" said Schultze. “The second thing that's going on is if everybody's saying 'we know' at the legislature we're not really expecting you to be here, this is a classic no-show job."

The story is followed up with exposing Ortmann's conflict of interest. Ortmann tried to say that she did nothing wrong, claiming that "Scott Dibble goes to the library and votes on library bills." There's no comparison. Dibble doesn't have a high level job in the Minneapolis Public Library System.

I encourage people to go watch the story on the web. Stanek who is typically never one to be shy of a camera avoided Lyden like the plague.

There needs to be an external audit of the Sheriff's office.