Former sheriff violated state statute

Published 7:46 pm Saturday, November 17, 2012

Violation found during state audit

Former Freeborn County Sheriff Mark Harig violated Minnesota statute when he sold himself and another county employee two handguns in 2010, according to an audit by the Minnesota State Auditor’s Office.

Mark Harig

Harig failed to give reasonable public notice that two .45-caliber Glock handguns were for sale and did not sell them at a public auction or through sealed responses, the audit states. Because of this, the county may not have received a market price for the guns.

The finding was presented to the Freeborn County commissioners earlier this month as part of a report given by the State Auditor’s Office about the 2011 audit.

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A call to Harig by the Tribune was not returned.

According to county documents, Harig purchased one gun for $300 for himself and sold the second one to Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Roche, also for $300.

Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said he was unsure where the guns came from or if the guns had been Harig’s guns while in the position.

The sale took place Dec. 8, 2010, but the money from that sale was not desposited until January of 2011; therefore, it was included in the annual 2011 audit by the state.

Kluever said both Harig and Roche should have received a letter asking the property be returned and their money refunded, but as of Thursday afternoon he had not received any response.

The audit states if property is not needed for public purposes, it can be sold to employees only after reasonable public notice at a public auction or by sealed response. It further states the employee purchasing the property cannot be directly involved in the auction or process of the collection of sealed bids.

Kluever said he knew about the finding months ago, and he has since had a conversation with current Sheriff Bob Kindler to encourage future compliance.

“He assured me his office would comply with this,” Kluever said.

Freeborn County Board Chairman Dan Belshan said after hearing from the state that a statute had been violated, he requested the county property be returned.

“In the future, any item determined as surplus will be sold in the proper way, according to statute,” Belshan said.

Kluever said he did not anticipate any punitive action to be taken.

Harig worked for the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office for 38 years and was sheriff for eight. He was defeated by Kindler in the 2010 election.

None of the commissioners other than Belshan commented on the issue during the Nov. 6 meeting.