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Supervisor angered by theft allegations

The new year brought a leadership change for the Thomson Township Board of Supervisors, and a heated discussion of the way allegations against supervisor Jason Paulson were handled by township attorney David Pritchett.

Reorganization was the first topic of discussion at the township board meeting Thursday, Jan. 6, with chair Terry Hill stepping down and Ruth Janke being elected the new chair. Bill Gerard was voted the new vice chair.

Supervisor Jason Paulson made a motion to seek out new legal counsel for the township during reorganization, but the motion died without a second.

Paulson later opened a nearly hour-long discussion regarding a letter sent to him by township attorney Pritchett on Nov. 10 because Pritchett was in attendance to respond to Paulson’s statements for the first time.

Paulson said the letter accused him of stealing gravel from the township and not having valid permits for various matters on his property, which he has denied. In Paulson’s statements to Pritchett at Thursday’s meeting, he said that he was upset and disappointed that the letter was sent “on behalf of the board of supervisors,” but none of the supervisors saw or approved the letter before it was sent to Paulson.

“I have been the attorney for this township for 31 years and we’ve never had to write a letter of this nature to a board member,” Pritchett said. “If I am writing a letter to a citizen on an enforcement matter, I introduce myself by saying I represent the town. I represent and am employed by the board, so I wrote it as if it were coming from the board.”

Paulson was upset that he had been talking to the board about moving gravel to stop the township’s water from running onto his property since 2019, but they had made no progress so he decided to do it by himself. Paulson claims that no one called to ask him what he was doing or why he was moving the gravel. He said the only communication he had with the township was through the letter from Pritchett accusing him of theft.

“You’re using ‘theft’ pretty loosely,” Paulson said. “Usually if you’re going to make accusations of individuals in a letter, you would have someone reach out to that person or send them a letter saying ‘what say you’ about all of these things rather than saying ‘you did these things.’ I had no opportunity to do that, or did I read this letter wrong?”

Pritchett said the township discourages residents from “self help” when it comes to roads and that, at the least, the township’s road foreman and engineer should have been contacted before he attempted road modification.

During the meeting, other board members offered possible solutions to repair the problem with the water on Paulson’s property and help diffuse the situation. Paulson said he refused to work with the township’s engineers or maintenance employees because they had not done anything in the past. Eventually, Paulson agreed to meet with the township’s engineer to come up with a possible solution, with Hill saying it would become “top priority.”

Pritchett suggested the matter could have been kept private had Paulson not sent the letter out to the board and talked to the media about it.

Paulson countered by saying, “People should be aware of what township money is being spent on. We are here tonight to discuss this publicly because I am a public servant, Mr. Pritchett, and you are not.”

In other matters Thursday:

Esko fire chief Kyle Gustafson and Carlton County Sheriff’s Office deputy Randy Roberts gave end-of-the-year reports to the board. Chief Gustafson reported 348 runs for the department during 2021. Gustafson also reported to the board that the turn-out gear which was sent to be cleaned after a messy call in November came back, “better than expected.” Deputy Roberts reported 111 calls for the month of December.

• Township resident Jim Nynas expressed his concerns about the Clouet Area Fire Department tax levy and offered some suggestions. “I am concerned that people are setting levies that aren’t representative of the people in our district,” he said.

The board discussed possible legislation that might be changed this year, allowing CAFD to keep a reserve of the money they tax, which is not allowed under current legislation. The board discussed contacting someone to see how the township could become involved in standing against that potential change.

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