Sheriff refutes former advocate’s allegations of bullying, intimidation

Published 12:59 pm Friday, November 10, 2017

Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag Friday refuted allegations of bullying and intimidation made by a former Freeborn County Crime Victims Crisis Center advocate.

Freitag’s written response came three days after Dotti Honsey accused Freitag of bullying and intimidating her in a direct address to the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, the day she retired.

Honsey alleged Freitag intentionally withheld crime victim data from the Crisis Center, leaving victims at risk.

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In the letter, Freitag said changes to the procedure came after a review of the data release policy earlier this year found the policy needed to be tightened to increase compliance.

“I drafted a procedure for the Sheriff’s Office to follow when releasing data to them and implemented the procedure on Feb. 10 to prevent us from releasing protected data,” he said.

Freitag said the change angered Crisis Center staff. The Freeborn County Attorney’s Office, a Minnesota Sheriff’s Association lawyer and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women supported Freitag’s procedure, he said.

“The Sheriff’s Office will follow government data practice laws to safeguard information/data we collect on people through the course of our duties,” he said.

In a phone interview Friday, Honsey said Safia Khan of the Coalition for Battered Women did not support the new policy.

In an email Saturday, Khan said she was concerned initially about the change.

“In this instance, we were concerned about the sheriff’s new policy related to advocacy’s access to police reports, which included a 10-day response time, amongst other changes,” she said. “Victim advocates need timely access to these police reports in order to make outreach to victims in times of crisis when they are most vulnerable.

“We urged the sheriff to reconsider his policies and establish a process by which the program could receive police reports in a timely manner and worked with the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association to resolve this issue.”

Khan said after conversations, Freitag agreed to the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association and Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women proposed as changes to his new policy and process that would allow “the program and victims to receive reports in a timely manner. Our role in these matters is to help find resolution to issues that impact victim safety and provide support to domestic violence programs, such as CVCC, in what they need to carry out essential, life saving services.

Honsey said the CVCC had to undertake a process of up to six days to access court files, resulting in victims having to wait longer to understand additional information about cases that impacted them.

“It was never an issue with our two previous sheriffs that I worked with,” she said.

In Thursday’s Tribune article where Honsey accused Freitag of bullying and intimidation, Honsey said the tension between the two 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 deputy overtime wages and travel expenses for such work for hourly wages and travel expenses for deputies.

Freitag refuted Honsey’s statement.

“I’ve been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1995, and that has never been the case,” he said. “Deputies can be subpoenaed to court for a civil hearing, but they don’t testify without being paid for their time incurred. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t pay deputies out of our overtime budget for deputies to testify in civil hearings dealing with someone’s personal affairs (non-criminal). Her statement is false.”

On Friday, Honsey alleged Freitag was being untruthful about the incident.

“That definitely was a lie,” she said.

She said the CVCC had to pay for deputy availability on the basis that one of them would testify, but that never took place.

Freitag said he was raised to be “polite, and, when possible, accommodating to others.”

“I strive to do what’s best for our citizens and to always be approachable for anyone who wants to speak with me.”

Honsey said her experience with Freitag was different than his description of his personality, and she questioned whether Freitag should continue to serve as sheriff.  

Freitag said Honsey served Freeborn County for nearly 18 years and helped “many people.”

“I commend her for her service to our citizens, and I wish her well in retirement,” he said.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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