Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek’s re-election campaign has been pushing several agencies to investigate campaign practices of his opponent Dave Hutchinson in the weeks leading up to the general election.
After first approaching the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, the Stanek campaign took its complaint to Brooklyn Park police, which is investigating “accusations that Mr. Hutchinson or his ‘campaign’ violated Fair Campaign Practices,” Deputy Chief Mark Bruley wrote in an e-mail.
Hutchinson said Wednesday he “had no idea what they were looking at,” and that he was not contacted by Brooklyn Park police. “It’s just Stanek being a bully,” he said.
The accusations came from Alex Lewison, the deputy treasurer for Stanek’s campaign, Bruley said. They concern “technical aspects of the law,” such as filing deadlines for campaign material. The department had yet to determine if there had been a criminal violation, he said.
“All we have right now are allegations,” Bruley said.
Hutchinson’s attorney, Alan Weinblatt, said it’s “the first time in my 48 years that I’ve experienced a police department doing anything” regarding campaign law.
Lewison and Stanek campaign staff member Julianne Ortman did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
In August, Lewison filed a complaint with the state Office of Administrative Hearings with numerous accusations into Hutchinson’s campaign. The administrative law judge dismissed all of the allegations except one: that the campaign used two yard signs that did not have a disclaimer for who paid or prepared them. Hutchinson is currently appealing a $200 fine.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, which endorsed Stanek for sheriff, posted on its website copies of late campaign finance filing notices sent by the county to Hutchinson’s former campaign treasurer. It called on Hutchinson to suspend his campaign Thursday.
In an interview, Hutchinson acknowledges that he’s been late in filing his campaign finance forms. Both the 2017 and pre-primary reports were filed last month. (His report due before the general election was filed on time.)
“We’ve done nothing wrong besides missing some filing dates,” Hutchinson said. “As soon as we figured out that we needed help, we hired somebody.”
“There’s no wrongdoing, there’s no criminal intent,” he continued. “This is all mistakes made by a first-time politician.”
Lewison reached out to Brooklyn Park police earlier in October, Bruley said. Hutchinson said his former campaign treasurer lives in the city.
Lewison had also reached out to Metro Transit, where Hutchinson works as a police sergeant, according to a letter obtained by the Star Tribune. The agency was reviewing the complaint, spokesman Howie Padilla said.
Hutchinson, who lives in Bloomington, is the DFL-endorsed candidate running against Stanek, who is seeking his fourth term.
Stanek’s campaign collected more than $219,550 this year, more than four times the amount raised by Hutchinson in the same period.
Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this report.