A judge has ruled that seven detectives who investigate financial crime for the state commerce department are not essential workers. Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin denied the state police detectives' petition on Friday. She wrote that while law enforcement is a core government function, the court doesn't have the authority to determine how many and what types of officers should remain on the job.
MPR's Laura Yuen reported on the petition this week. At the hearing yesterday, one of the detectives, Jonathan Ferris, asked to be allowed to return to work. He said:
As members of the law enforcement profession, each of us took an oath to uphold the constitution, our community and the agency we serve. We take that oath very seriously. As law enforcement officers, we ask that you allow us to recognize that oath and allow us to perform our duties.
The insurance-fraud division investigates financial crimes and takes down scammers and swindlers. Ferris said county and federal prosecutors often charge the targets of the investigations with felonies, including racketeering and arson.
The judge's ruling is available online here.
On day seven of the government shutdown, there was no headway on budget talks, but lots of news coming out of Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin's office.
Today, she ruled that licensing operations at the Department of Human Services should continue. That means background checks for doctors and professionals who work in child care, for instance, will continue.
We also know that Gov. Mark Dayton wants Special Master Kathleen Blatz to rule homelessness programs and child care support critical after all.
The GOP is using Dayton's list of essential staff as ammunition in the battle over who's responsible for the shutdown. In addition to his chief of staff and press officer, Dayton's list includes his chef and housekeeper. But it's important to point out that Dayton's paying his chef's salary with his own money during the shutdown.
And a group of budget experts say they've got a deficit solution.
As this point, there are no budget talks scheduled for tomorrow.
From MPR's Laura Yuen:
Do state detectives who investigate white-collar crimes provide an essential service?
Det. Jonathan Ferris apparently thinks so. Ferris, who works on insurance-fraud cases for the Department of Commerce, is scheduled to testify Thursday for another round of hearings before a special master.
By the looks of the petition he filed today, he'll question why seven of 10 sworn officers in the Commerce Department have been laid off during the government shutdown. This is the same division who helped bring down a high-profile alleged mortgage fraud scheme last month.
We were under the assumption that all state law enforcement officers were still working through the shutdown. Ferris' petition writes that the seven fraud detectives were the only members of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Association who were let go.
Ferris argues that state troopers, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents, Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement agents, conservation officers, and Fugitive Task Force agents have all been able to stay on the job.
Ramsey Count y Judge Kathleen Gearin has ruled broadly that the government should continue to protect public safety. She largely approved Gov. Mark Dayton's recommendations, which did name the Commerce Department's "insurance fraud prevention activities" as a critical service.
Ferris' petition appears to have ruffled some feathers at the top of his department. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman wrote a sternly worded letter to Special Master Kathleen Blatz, saying Ferris had "no authority to act on behalf of the Department" or the insurance-fraud division.
But the Second Judicial District makes clear who exactly Ferris is representing - and it's not Commerce. He'll testify as a member of the state's law enforcement association on behalf of the seven laid-off detectives.
He's the first to testify Thursday, at 8 a.m.
Big lineup of talkers on the #mnshutdown on MPR News today. Here's a preview of the next few hours (subject to change):
-At 7:20 on Morning Edition, we expect to hear from a top GOP leader, either Amy Koch or Kurt Zellers
-At 7:30 we'll hear from the director of the Minnesota Zoo
-MPR News political editor Mike Mulcahy at 7:40, followed by another reporter, either Catherine Richert or Brandt Williams
-At 8:00 we will be recording an interview with a state employee laid off from her job in the Revenue Department for airing later during the hour
-Also during the 8:00 hour we expect a preview of the special master hearings from reporter Laura Yuen, and we'll hear about effects of the shutdown from reporter Dan Olson
-On Midmorning starting at 9, we'll hear from reporters Tim Pugmire, Catherine Richert, Hennepin County board commissioner Mike Opat, Duluth Mayor Don Ness, St, Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk and former state representative Marty Seifert.
-Then on Midday, starting at 11: former Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, reporters Mulachy, Yuen and Olson, and House Minority Leader Thissen. Midday has also invited Governor Dayton and GOP legislative leaders to appear on the show.
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lorie Gildea is weighing in on what should be done with the shutdown-related lawsuits piling up against Gov. Mark Dayton's administration.
Several lawsuits, including one by Canterbury Park, have been filed in several different counties. Dayton's attorney, David Lillehaug, is asking the courts to order all lawsuits related to the shutdown to be heard before Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin. Consolidating the cases would be more efficient and lessen the burden on the governor and Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, Lillehaug said.
In an order issued Thursday, Gildea instructed anyone wishing to respond to Lillehaug's argument to contact the clerk of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by noon today.
In his motion, Lillehaug said assigning the cases to Gearin "is not only advisable, it is necessary to prevent the waste of party and judicial resources, unmanageable litigation, and inconsistent judgments."
Besides Canterbury Park, the Minnesota Zoo and Minnesota Harness Racing are suing the Minnesota Management and Budget. All of the parties are concerned about lost revenue during a shutdown, which would come during the upcoming 4th of July weekend.
Gearin ruled Wednesday that only core critical functions of government would continue during a shutdown. She said the zoo should close and said state regulators who oversee horseracing were not essential.
From KSTP-TV: "Many Nonprofits Brace for State Government Shutdown"
And on All Things Considered today, Tom Crann spoke with Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, about how today's court ruling will affect those groups.
Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled Wednesday that while some of the state's nonprofit organizations provide services that vulnerable Minnesotans rely on, it's not a critical core function of the government to continue funding them in the event of a shutdown.
A judge rules Minnesota courts must be funded in a shutdown.
A judge has ruled that Minnesota's Judiciary should continue running even if state government shuts down on July 1.
Retired Judge Bruce Chrisopherson has ruled that the state's courts should continue operating even if Gov. Dayton and the Legislature fail to agree on a budget. In his order, Christopherson said the state should continue to fund the courts at least through July 30th.
The decision comes one day after the Attorney General, the governor's office and public defenders argued in court that the judiciary should continue to receive funding. In his order, Christopherson said that due process and other constitutional protections require the courts to continue running.
A ruling is still pending from another judge on whether other essential government functions should continue if no budget deal is reached by Friday.
It's a concern the Minnesota Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents horse owners and racers, voiced in paperwork filed with the Ramsey County Court.
The Minnesota Racing Commission has not been listed as an essential service in Gov. Mark Dayton's petition, even though the commission is self-sustaining.
If commission members are laid-off, MHBPA worries that the commission won't be able to perform its regulatory functions. And that means no horse racing.
In its court document, the MHBPA writes that its members have already paid to race at Canterbury.
"By accepting this money, the state has entered into an implied contract which they would now be violating," the document states. "Many people, in reliance on this contract, moved their operations to Minnesota for the race season and they will be serious damaged."
Canterbury recently told investors that the shutdown might force it to suspend or close its operations.
"If we were forced to suspend all horse racing, simulcasting and Card Casino operations, the result would be a significant, adverse impact on the company," chief executive Randy Sampson wrote.
"We would lose gaming and concession revenues in excess of $1 million per week but would continue to incur substantial operating expenses, including expenses to support our backside horse population.
Without any revenues coming in, we would be forced to lay off substantially all of our 1,000 full time and part time employees causing hardship for them and their families. The shutdown would have a particularly severe impact on Canterbury over the Fourth of July weekend, which is typically the busiest weekend of the year."
Photo credit: Flickr user FranklinPhotos
The Uptake is streaming coverage of the court hearing this afternoon over what stays open and what closes during a shutdown.
Saying the governor and legislative leaders already have the "institutional competency" to resolve the budget impasse, Ramsey County judge Kathleen Gearin today rejected Gov. Dayton's idea for a budget mediator.