BCA takes boat in investigation of Becker County Sheriff's Office
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has taken possession of a boat purchased by the Becker County Sheriff's Office, but county officials remain mum or in the dark about the details of the BCA investigation.
Through interviews and an open records request, The Forum has learned that the sheriff's office bought the boat, along with an outboard motor and trailer, and prepared an application to the state Department of Natural Resources for reimbursement through a federal grant, but the application was never submitted.
The Forum first reported on the investigation when Sheriff Tim Gordon announced his resignation Oct. 9 in the middle of a four-year term, citing multiple personal reasons.
At the time, Gordon said he had recently provided information to the BCA that he described as "contractual information" related to the DNR. He said it had nothing to do with his decision to resign.
Kelly Shannon, Gordon's chief deputy who has since been appointed sheriff to fill out the remainder of his term, confirmed Wednesday that the BCA has possession of the boat, motor and trailer.
Shannon said he couldn't comment on the grant application and why it
wasn't submitted or confirm whether the investigation centers on how the boat was purchased.
"I can't say that because that's part of the investigation," he said. "I'm sorry, I wish we could tell you guys more, but it's just we can't at this point."
No one in the sheriff's office has been disciplined in connection with the investigation, he said.
"Basically everything out there is rumors at this point, so we're anxious for some closure to it," he said.
County Administrator Jack Ingstad said the matter "has been reviewed, and I would expect a decision to be made here soon."
State law prevents the BCA from discussing the details of active and ongoing investigation, spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said.
The Forum asked Shannon on Wednesday to pass along a message to Gordon seeking comment on why the BCA had possession of the boat.
An attorney for Gordon, Paul Thorwaldsen of Detroit Lakes, responded to the request saying, "I have no indication of any criminal intent on the part of Tim Gordon or any criminal action while he was the sheriff here in Becker County."
Records point to boat
An open records request filed by The Forum shortly after Gordon's resignation initially yielded 90 pages of emails and other documents.
Most of the documentation pertained to federal grants that the county applied for through the DNR to bolster the county's boating and snowmobile safety programs.
Last Friday, Ingstad provided two additional emails with the subject lines and attachments blacked out because, he said, they contained confidential or nonpublic data under a Minnesota law that exempts criminal investigative data from open records.
The emails were exchanged between Gordon, Deputy Cody Bouchie and Kim Elverum, the DNR's boat and water safety coordinator, who served as the state's representative for the federal grants.
The emails were dated May 21 - the same date listed on a grant application that the county filled out for submission to Elverum.
The application shows the county intended to seek grant reimbursement for a 16-foot inflatable boat at a cost of $2,825, an outboard motor at $2,810 and a boat trailer at $1,740.
Bouchie is listed as the contact person on the application and Gordon's name is on the signature line, though it's his typed name, not his signature.
According to County Auditor Ryan Tangen, the boat, motor and trailer were purchased from Mountain Motors in Detroit Lakes on July 25, and the county paid the bill for the equipment on Aug. 17.
Elverum said that, to his knowledge, the DNR hasn't received a reimbursement request for the boat.
Waiting for answers
Another email that had attachments redacted, also because they contained criminal investigative data, was an Aug. 2 message to Gordon from Bruce Anspach, the DNR's Region 1 watercraft inspection program supervisor based in Park Rapids.
In the one-line email, Anspach said, "Here is the data from Joe's PDA over" the July 4 weekend.
Becker County authorities are still investigating a hit-and-run boating accident on Big Cormorant Lake the night of July 4, which was on a Wednesday.
Anspach told The Forum that "Joe" was an intern who worked for the DNR over the summer inspecting watercraft for aquatic invasive species. Beyond that, he said he couldn't comment because of the ongoing investigation.
The lack of information about the BCA investigation has frustrated county officials and generated a lot of rumors, Ingstad said.
Before appointing Shannon to serve the remainder of Gordon's term, the county Board of Commissioners asked Ingstad to talk to the BCA about who might be involved in the investigation, he said.
"It'd be nice if they'd just come out and tell us what it's all about," Ingstad said. "Because a lot of times people with rumors and things make it 10 times what it really is."