Against the backdrop of John VanHecke doing Matt Entenza’s dirty work (“Morons!” says a guy with ties — I couldn’t agree more. If I had more pocket change, I would have registered for A.G. yesterday when I was at the S.O.B.), the City of Red Wing was caught with its papers down.

What’s the deal? For those filing for City Council, the City wants a signed “General Authorization and Release” where candidates list everywhere they’ve ever lived, and agree to release “any and all private data which relates to me,” and checks with “one or more consumer reporting agencies, which may include, but not be limited to, criminal records checks, court records, driving records, credit reports, and summaries of educational or employment data and histories” by “City of Red Wing and its Agency’s(sic), Verified Credentials, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and all City and County Law Enforcement Agencies in which I have lived.” This is in the filing packet, REALLY! And this note in the middle of it, “I am not legally required to sign this Authorization; I am voluntarily choosing to do so because I want to be considered for employment or volunteer service with the City of Red Wing.” Just a little extortion between friends, right? … sigh… I don’t think so.
So of course I filed this a.m. $5, that I can handle. Just don’t have the resources to put Sen. (from Xcel) Steve Murphy out of a job.
Check this article in the Red Wing Republican Beagle:

City Hall screening council candidates

Mike Longaecker

The Republican Eagle

Joe Krueger is mulling whether heâ??ll complete his filing for Red Wing City Council.

After signing the necessary paperwork and paying the $5 fee, the former council member is hedging on one last document to which heâ??s just not comfortable laying ink.

Itâ??s a release form that authorizes the city to run background checks on City Council applicants through a private firm.

City Hall officials said the check â?? instituted during last yearâ??s council appointment process â?? merely searches for felony convictions by sifting through criminal and driving records.

The form Krueger and every other council applicant has been asked to sign reads differently.

â??… the City may desire to request reports from one or more consumer reporting agencies which may include, but not be limited to, criminal records checks, court records, driving records, credit reports, and summaries of educational or employment data and histories,â? the document states.

Krueger said he wonders whether the language will cause other applicants to shy away from candidacy.

â??To me, it has a chilling effect on the whole democratic process,â? Krueger said, noting that heâ??s scrutinizing the document on philosophical grounds, not because of anything in his past. â??People see this â?? theyâ??re going to get intimidated.â?

â??Good policyâ??

The background checks were initiated last year on recommendation by City Attorney Jay Squires, he confirmed Wednesday. City Clerk Kathy Johnson said this week that background search records of last yearâ??s at-large candidates remain on file with the city, though she said state law prohibits her from disclosing the contents.

The screening, as Squires sees it, â??seems to be good policy,â? he said, though he admitted the language listed in the document is â??a little bit of a misnomer.â?

â??Itâ??s incorrect to list that the city is conducting that type of an inquiry,â? Squires said, adding that the searches will apply to â??only that which pertains to eligibility to hold office.

â??The intent isnâ??t to inhibit anyone from filing for office.â?

But at least one incumbent isnâ??t balking at the background check. Council member Dean Hove, who filed for re-election last week, said he supports the search since it could potentially snare ineligible runners sooner than later.

â??To me, thatâ??s the right thing to do,â? Hove said. â??It doesnâ??t bother me at all.â?

Squires and Johnson said city officials may review the document to clarify what the search entails. The form given to council candidates states that it also applies to new city employees and volunteers.

â??We might be changing that a bit,â? Johnson said Wednesday.

A unique approach?

Still, some in local political circles are questioning why the checks are necessary at all. While Squires defended the screening as â??an independent means to be able to verifyâ? candidate eligibility, the new process is a break from local and state requirements.

Candidates for Goodhue County Board sign an application that includes an affidavit at the bottom, according to the Recorderâ??s Office. The sworn affidavit promises that the signee isnâ??t a convicted felon and fulfills residency requirements.

The same goes for the Red Wing School Board. Supt. Stan Slessor said School Board hopefuls only sign an affidavit of candidacy when filing for that elected office. By doing so, they declare they are eligible under state law to run.

â??We do not do criminal background checks,â? Slessor said.

Candidates vying for state lawmaker posts also arenâ??t facing background checks, the Secretary of Stateâ??s Office said. If someone were to question the legitimacy of a legislative hopefulâ??s sworn affidavit, a challenge could be filed through the courts system, said Secretary of State Communications Director Kent Kaiser.

And according to Red Wing City Charter, the affidavit of candidacy is all thatâ??s required. But, Squires pointed out, charter doesnâ??t preclude a background investigation.

â??Itâ??s good to be thorough these days,â? he said. â??Iâ??m comfortable we have a right to do this to be proactive rather than reactive.â?

Squires, who also represents other cities around the state, said that while he hadnâ??t researched other municipalitiesâ?? practices, he wasnâ??t aware of other cities initiating similar searches.


search included

According to Johnson, Red Wingâ??s check includes a search of each county the applicant attests on the form to have lived. A driving record search is also to be conducted, she said, as is a search of a national criminal database.

Johnson said the national search was added as a catch-all if some former addresses arenâ??t listed.

She said last yearâ??s screenings were administered by Verified Credentials, a Lakeville, Minn., background screening business.

This yearâ??s checks are scheduled to go through the same service.

Clare Larsen, a marketing copywriter for the firm, declined to share what information the city has requested for investigation.

Staff Writer Scott Wente contributed to this story

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