The Sherburne County Attorney’s office has declined to bring charges against Morrison County Commissioner Don Meyer for collecting certain per diem payments from Morrison County.
The investigation was conducted to determine if charges could be filed regarding per diem payments that Meyer claimed from Morrison County at the same time claims were made to South Country Health Alliance (SCHA).
In a letter sent to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s office Tuesday, regarding two payments made by both Morrison County and SCHA for the same meeting, Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney said, “This same scenario has occurred previously in Waseca and Steele counties. In those instances, the commissioners were allowed to repay the amount received from the county without criminal consequences.”
Commissioners are allowed to receive only one per diem payment per day, regardless of the number of meetings they actually attend that day.
The investigation also looked at the 34 occasions where Meyer received a per diem payment from SCHA for a SCHA meeting and also a per diem payment from Morrison County for a county-related non-SCHA meeting. In her letter, Heaney referenced a State Auditor report recommending that Morrison County look into whether there is independent statutory authority for a commissioner to receive a per diem from both entities for separate meetings held on the same day.
There were also 28 occasions where Meyer received a per diem payment from SCHA for a SCHA meeting and a per diem from the county for the day prior to a SCHA meeting, a travel day.
Heaney pointed out in her letter that Morrison County’s per diem policy is not clear on that issue and that the County Auditor’s office approved Meyer’s expense sheets, both circumstances which would complicate any criminal prosecution.
“The first time I became aware of per diems paid by South Country was when the State Auditor’s office contacted me in April to request a document from our records,” said Morrison County Auditor Russ Nygren. Nygren does not see expense reports that are turned in to South Country.
Morrison County expense report forms show that when the county auditor signs a county employee’s expense report, he is approving the contents of that report. However, when signing a county commissioner’s expense report, the auditor is simply witnessing the commissioner’s signature.
The commissioner’s signature on his or her expense report affirms the following statement, “I declare under the penalties of perjury that this claim is just and correct and that no part of it has been paid.”
Heaney’s letter also brought to light additional allegations now being made that Meyer may not have attended all the meetings for which he received a per diem payment.
Since some of the meetings in question took place as far back as 2009, Heaney stated, “It would be very difficult to prove to the level required for criminal prosecution that Mr. Meyer did or did not attend specific meetings that occurred several years ago.”
“Now that the Sherburne County attorney has issued her decision and declined criminal charges, the County Board can begin the process of reviewing the recommendations made by the State Auditor in her letter dated July 13,” said Deb Gruber, Morrison County administrator.
The County Board has retained the services of an independent counsel to assist with this review and intends to address the issue at an Oct. 2 planning session.
Those with specific questions or concerns regarding the information presented, contact Deb Gruber, Morrison County administrator at (320) 632-0295.