Herald JournalHerald and Journal, Nov. 18, 2002

Borrell being investigated for unfair campaign practices

By Lynda Jensen

The race for State Representative District 19B took another turn ­ post election ­ with Dick Borrell being investigated for unfair campaign practices by the Wright County Attorney.

Borrell won a three-way race among DFLer Lori Schmidt, and Republican write-in candidate Darren Knight.

The investigation stems from pamphlets and statements distributed by Borrell supporters five days before the election, claiming that Knight was being investigated by Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly.

That statement, and others made in the pamphlet, were not true, Kelly said, in a statement released Tuesday.

Borrell claimed that Knight was being investigated by the attorney for false political campaign material and criminal defamation, Kelly said.

No charges were filed against Knight, Kelly said.

"The pamphlet went on to state 'the Wright County Attorney's Office immediately assigned an investigator due to the serious nature of this criminal complaint,'" Kelly said.

This is not true, although the county attorney is obligated to check out every complaint, no matter how frivolous or legitimate it seems, Kelly said.

The county attorney did process Borrells two complaints Oct. 28, but did not find substance to them, Kelly said.

"(We) found that there was no probable cause to substantiate either of Borrell's claims," Kelly said.

Both men, Borrell and Knight, were informed of this decision Oct. 31 ­ two days before the campaign supporters started distributing the misleading information Nov. 1 about Knight being charged. The pamphlets were distributed for five days, up until the election, Kelly said.

During this time, the county attorney's office fielded calls for five days, answering questions from voters and newspapers about the pamphlet and Knight, Kelly said.

Callers "wanted to know before they voted if Darren Knight was a criminal and if Darren Knight had been criminally charged by the county attorney," Kelly said. "The answer is no and no."

"Unfortunately, Mr. Borrell's pamphlet never clarified that it was Borrell who launched a criminal investigation, that it was Borrell who filed criminal charges and that it was Borrell who believed the matter to be serious," Kelly said.

Kelly made this statement:

"The way the pamphlet looked and the way it was worded was misleading because it gave the impression that:

1) It was the county attorney who launched, started and initiated a criminal investigation against Darren Knight (not true).

2) It was the county attorney who filed criminal charges against Knight (not true).

Mr. Borrell may file a complaint with the county attorney, but he does not have the authority to file criminal charges. Whether criminal charges would be filed is the responsibility of the county attorney or grand jury.

3) The county attorney validated all of the above by immediately assigning an investigator due to the "serious nature" of this criminal complaint (not true).

The county attorney never made this statement, Kelly said. . . . Moreover, the law requires the county attorney to investigate all complaints of unfair campaign practices and this is why an investigator was assigned."

Knight filed a complaint the day before the election, Nov. 4.

"(I) believed it was only fair to Darren Knight to clear his name and set the record straight," Kelly said.

Kelly does not personally know either candidate, and did not have contact with either before the election season this year, he said.

Since Kelly will have to testify during the investigation, it will probably be assigned to an indepedent counsel if charges are filed, to decide the merits of Knight's complaint.

Borrell declined to comment on the issue until after the investigation is complete, he said.

More write-in votes accounted for

Knight captured more write-in votes than previously reported.

Borrell narrowly carried the precincts of Woodland and Victor townships, but did not carry the City of Montrose or Waverly. Waverly was carried by DFLer Lori Schmidt.

The precincts of Waverly and Woodland Township registered 34 and 82 write-in votes, respectively.

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