Former CVCC employee alleges bullying by sheriff

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Outside investigation conducted; no discipline issued

On her final day in her position Tuesday, long-time Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center advocate Dotti Honsey accused Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag of bullying and intimidating her. 

“Not many people can honestly say, ‘I enjoy coming to work,’” Honsey told Freeborn County commissioners. “I truly believe that I have been blessed. I’ve struggled with the idea of leaving my work, because it is my passion. But something’s reared its ugly head at me, and then that was when I became a victim myself.”

Honsey, who worked for the center for almost 18 years, alleged due to Freitag’s behavior, she had to undertake a longer process to access court files, resulting in victims having to wait longer to understand additional information about cases that impacted them.

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Initially a truancy officer with Freeborn County for about 5 1/2 years, Honsey was the volunteer coordinator for the CVCC for the rest of her 17 3/4 years with the county.

In a statement Tuesday, Freeborn County said no discipline was handed down from the situation.

“Upon being notified of Ms. Honsey’s complaints, Freeborn County retained an outside investigator to look into all concerns expressed,” the county stated. “The investigation was completed, and Freeborn County considers this matter to be closed.”

The findings of the investigation, by Michelle Soldo of Soldo Consulting, are not public, under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act because no discipline was issued.

Freitag on Wednesday deferred to the county’s statement and declined additional comment.

Honsey said Wednesday the tension between her and Freitag began when a client she was working with was financially charged by the Sheriff’s Office for a case involving her client’s son because of deputy availability.

She said the CVCC had never been charged for such work for hourly wages and travel expenses for deputies.

After a few emails, Freitag allegedly came into her office, stated it was a civil matter and reportedly placed papers on her desk in a way that was off-putting to Honsey.

Freitag allegedly said Honsey breached security by not having a badge when she conducted training for volunteers on weekends and Wednesday nights at the Freeborn County Government Center. Honsey said she had a badge.

Honsey said Freitag did not listen to her after the alleged incident and pointed his finger at her.

In a letter to county employees, Freitag allegedly said if Honsey breached security again, she should be reprimanded.

A meeting at the Freeborn County Attorney’s Office that included Freeborn County’s human resources employee, Honsey’s supervisor and union representative took place.

Honsey stated since then, Freitag continued to bully and intimidate her by telling other people not to work with Honsey because she is a liar.

During Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, Honsey expressed frustration with the administrative process taken with her allegations and stated she thinks Freitag used abusive power and control tactics with her.

Honsey suggested the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners not give Freitag a raise because of his conduct and questioned whether other people who encounter the Sheriff’s Office are treated in a similar fashion by the sheriff.

Honsey said after a meeting she had with Freitag, she was informed the situation would be handled by department leaders. She said a letter regarding the situation was sent from Freitag to Freeborn County Attorney David Walker.

“I could not defend myself,” she said.

Honsey said the longer process she had to take to access full court cases hampered the ability of the crisis center to help victims.

“This has prevented staff from ensuring we (are) able to contact the correct victims in a timely manner before the offender appears in court if an arrest has been made,” she said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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