Appeals Court upholds almost $114K salary for sheriff

Published 1:42 pm Monday, July 19, 2021

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday ruled a district court judge did not abuse its discretion when it calculated Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag’s salary in part by comparing the salaries of sheriff’s in neighboring counties.

Kurt Freitag

The court cited “statutory and other valid factors” and affirmed Freitag’s salary at $113,952.

The order came after a lengthy court battle that started after the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners in December 2018 approved Freitag’s salary for 2019 at $97,020, a 5% increase from his $92,403 pay in 2018. The board did not give any discussion or explanation as to how the decision was made.

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Freitag had requested a salary of $113,952, which represented a 23% increase from his $92,403 salary. He had presented written materials in support of his requested salary, including a breakdown of average sheriff salaries in comparable counties.

The sheriff appealed the county board’s decision to the district court level, and after a court trial, a Waseca County District Court judge ruled in August 2019 that the board had set his salary arbitrarily and did not sufficiently take into account the extent of the sheriff’s responsibilities, experience, qualifications and performance when it set his salary. The judge set Freitag’s salary at $113,952.

The county appealed that decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which sided with the county, and Freitag then appealed that to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in March reversed the Court of Appeals decision, and then turned the case back over to the Appeals Court to determine whether the district court gave Freitag an appropriate new salary when it set it at $113,952.

“Because the district court’s determination was not against the facts in the record or based on an erroneous view of the law, the district court did not abuse its discretion when considering statutory and other valid factors when setting Freitag’s salary,” the Court of Appeals stated in the order.

Freitag said Monday afternoon that after the main Minnesota Supreme Court decision, this was “a loose end that the Court of Appeals had to decide on.”

“There were no surprises with this decision,” he said.