The longtime promoter of Stillwater’s Lumberjack Days festival has a prison term hanging over his head after being sentenced Friday on a tax evasion conviction.
In a Washington County court hearing, David W. Eckberg, 63, also was banned from participating in the operation of any community events except as approved by his probation officer. He must cooperate with a Minnesota Department of Revenue investigation to determine taxes he owes, and assist in the legal transfer of the Lumberjack Days copyright and logo to the city of Stillwater.
Prosecutor Rick Hodsdon described the sentence as a “just resolution,” saying that it held Eckberg “accountable for financial misdealings, and hopefully will help recover the tax obligations and let the city of Stillwater close that chapter of the Lumberjack Days history.”
Eckberg, of Baytown Township, faced two counts of failing to pay sales and alcohol taxes and one count of failing to pay an out-of-state entertainment tax during the final three years of the regional festival, which ended under a dark cloud in 2011.
He pleaded guilty in May.
“White collar crime such as this is as pernicious and damaging to society as street crime,” County Attorney Pete Orput said Friday. “It makes victims of all of us as taxpayers.”
District Judge Susan Miles sentenced Eckberg to St. Cloud prison but stayed the sentence, meaning it won’t be imposed unless he violates his probation. If he does, she could sentence him to serve 15 months.
Miles also sentenced him to 30 days in the Washington County jail, but specified that he would perform 240 hours of community service rather than serve time behind bars.
In court Friday, Eckberg repaid half of what he owed on the entertainment tax, or $6,863. The amount of unpaid sales and personal taxes is being investigated.
Lumberjack Days, a large regional festival, had been held every July in downtown Stillwater until it ended in a storm of allegations over unpaid bills. Eckberg, who owned the promotion company St. Croix Events, blamed “horrendous weather” and the postrecession economy.
Lumberjack Days since has been replaced by Stillwater Log Jam, a smaller community celebration. Promoters of Log Jam have no connection with Eckberg or Lumberjack Days.
Eckberg pleaded guilty last year in a separate case to issuing tens of thousands of dollars in worthless checks to Lumberjack Days vendors and was sentenced to a year’s probation, $1,000 fine and 240 hours of community service.
He acknowledged in court in May that he was an adviser for the Run Stillwater event, a half-marathon and 5K run.