Findings in Lumberjack Days inquiry go to Washington County

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 31, 2012 - 11:17 PM

It could take weeks to decide if criminal charges are warranted in alleged misuse of funds from Stillwater fest.

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The Iron Jack Timberteam lumberjack exhibition at the annual Lumberjack Days summer celebration July 22, 2011 held in downtown Stillwater.

Photo: Leah Millis, Star Tribune

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A five-month investigation into the financial practices of a popular Stillwater summer festival will go to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput on Friday or Monday for possible criminal charges.

The findings, which Sheriff Bill Hutton described as "very complex" and voluminous, explored allegations that Lumberjack Days promoter David Eckberg hadn't paid debts owed to businesses and nonprofit groups. He also owes money to the city of Stillwater for police and fire services.

Several complaints were lodged with Stillwater police last fall.

Hutton said Thursday he was aware that "victims out there" wanted a faster response but said he assigned two investigators to the case who have training in fraud, forgery and theft crimes.

"We kept this as a priority. We didn't let it collect dust on the shelf," he said. "This isn't something that's rushed or needs to be rushed."

The sheriff said the findings will be turned over to Orput's office in three-ring binders. "It's a big working file," he said.

Reviewing the information for possible charges could take weeks, Orput said.

Eckberg has said repeatedly that flooding and a dangerous lightning storm robbed last summer's festival of revenue. He has promised to pay all his bills.

Eckberg's company, St. Croix Events, coordinated Lumberjack Days for a nonprofit board of directors. The festival drew thousands of visitors to the city each summer.

Last fall the Stillwater City Council, by a unanimous vote, broke its contract with Lumberjack Days. The contract had allowed various permits for the downtown festival and also specified what fees would be paid to the city and when.

Some city leaders said the Lumberjack Days controversy had become an embarrassment to the city.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles

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