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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rich Stanek Talks to KARE - Says Video Not Available to the General Public

KARE. They've got footage from "20 Days in August".

This is definitely a campaign infomercial.

Saturday, in the Star Tribune and on KARE11, some county commissioners questioned the video's purpose.

"You know, I disagree," Stanek said Monday, in response to the concerns. "I've spoken to the commissioners that commented over the weekend in the local paper. They did not have the benefit of seeing the presentation that goes with the video. They saw snippets of it."

Stanek told KARE11 the video Is meant to set up slideshow presentations, which appear later on the DVD.

The DVD's first 26 minutes are full of praise for Stanek from his deputies, and from WCCO TV anchor Don Shelby, the narrator, who credits " the unfaltering dedication of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, commanded by sheriff Rich Stanek."

Shelby has said he wasn't paid for his performance in the video, which cost 30-thousand dollars to produce.

Stanek said it's one of his duties as sheriff to share his experiences and "to train other police officers and fire fighters in incident management, emergency management, and response to incidents like this."

Stanek said the video has been used "dozens" of times to train "thousands" of people in Minnesota and across the nation.

Hamline University law professor David Schultz, who teaches a government ethics class and was trained as an emergency responder in New York, said it appears the video had been written for a "broader consumption," and not just as a training video.

"(It is) marginally a training video," he said. "More, it's great P.R. for the sheriff's office."

Schultz said the video could be more of a concern if it is shown during an election campaign. Stanek still has three years left in his first term as sheriff.

"If this happens to be used during the next election time, when the sheriff is up for election, then it starts to cross the lines, in terms of asking, was this $30,000 spent for trying to enhance the image or the public relations of the sheriff's office?" Schultz said.

The $30,000 came from forfeiture and seizure funds - money that, Stanek said, is dedicated for training purposes and is not part of his office's operational budget.

He said the interviews for the DVD were shot the day after the last body was recovered from the collapse site.

Stanek said he was encouraged by federal officials, namely Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters and National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker to make the video.

He said 300 copies of the DVD were produced, and they are not available to the general public.

Tom Lyden on Fox 9 News reported that principals in the company that produced this video contributed to Rich Stanek's campaign. I'm still looking for a link to Lyden's story.

Update: I've found the link to Lyden's story. It's an excellent story.