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Ex-Thief River Falls official faces peeping charges

Dean Swanson

THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. - The City Council here is discussing how to replace the member who resigned abruptly last week, days after he was cited for peeping in a men's restroom in a city park.

Dean Swanson, 54, faces a charge of "interference with privacy," after police officers said he had been looking into stalls in the men's bathroom in Tourist Park on the southwest edge of town on Sept. 2.

Police Chief Kim Murphy said someone staying in the campground next to state Highway 32 called in, saying Swanson was in an adjoining stall in the bathroom, looking into other stalls.

Police responded and found Swanson in the handicapped stall.

Their investigation concluded Swanson had been in the bathroom, "a considerable amount of time," Murphy said, from roughly 11 p.m. Sept. 1 to about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 2.

He appeared to have been drinking and told the officers he was openly gay and had been looking at other patrons in their bathroom stalls, Murphy said.

Pennington County Attorney Al Rogalla said he's charging Swanson with a gross misdemeanor.

Swanson is expected to make an initial appearance on the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $3,000 fine, in state district court in Thief River Falls within two weeks, a court official said.

Attempts to reach Swanson, who lives near the campground, for comment were unsuccessful.

When he lived in Minneapolis in 2003, Swanson was convicted of a gross misdemeanor in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul, for non-consensual sexual conduct, according to state court records. His sentence included a few days in the workhouse and two years of probation.

Rogalla said any previous conviction could affect how this case is handled.

Resigned last week

Swanson moved back to his hometown about a year before being elected to the city council.

He was elected to the eight-member council in 2010, taking his seat in January 2011.

He resigned his seat, effective immediately, via a letter to the city dated Sept. 5, saying he was going to concentrate on personal issues.

Mayor Steve Nordhagen said the council's administrative services committee will discuss how to fill the empty seat Thursday.

"We will bring a recommendation to the full council on the 18th," he said.

The council meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

Swanson's four-year term would have ended Dec. 31, 2014.

"Typically, the process we use in a situation like this is we ask people who live in that ward to submit resumes to the city council, answering why would you like to serve to fill out that term and then we select who we think is the best candidate."

The next term, beginning in 2015, will be filled by election in 2014.

Running the council short one member won't be a problem until a replacement is selected, Nordhagen said.

Nordhagen and Murphy both stressed the incident is an isolated one and there have not been similar reports from the park.