- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2015

CALEDONIA, Minn. (AP) - An independent investigation has found a southeast Minnesota zoning official used his power to retaliate against people who opposed silica sand mining.

The investigation’s findings on Bob Scanlan led to a three-day suspension as well as mandatory ethics training, the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/1BE9dxe ) reports. Scanlan is the Houston County zoning and planning director, and he has played a role in county discussions over sand mining.

The investigation ordered by the Houston County Board last summer and completed by a Minnesota law firm says Scanlan targeted people who spoke out against sand mining at public meetings or in letters to the County Board. The law firm’s findings say Scanlan handed down false zoning violations and threatened to tear down one person’s house.

Scanlan declined to comment to the Star Tribune.

Debate has spiked in Houston County over silica sand, which is a key component in oil and gas operations. The County Board recently deadlocked over a proposed ban on the practice, after a three-year moratorium recently expired. Law enforcement has taken hecklers out of board meetings in recent weeks.

“It’s really split us down the board pretty bad,” said county commissioner Dana Kjome.

Two of the board’s five commissioners back Scanlan and say sand mining opponents are trying to hurt him with the investigation. Board chairman Steve Schuldt said he thought Scanlan acted in good faith.

Among the investigation’s findings was that Scanlan told one homeowner who complained about a nearby sand mine that their house was 20 feet short of a requirement to be 1,000 feet from a mine. Scanlan told the homeowner they would face “removal of the house to meet setbacks” if they weren’t in compliance within 10 days.

But the zoning code is meant to keep mines from opening within 1,000 feet of homes, and Scanlan’s violation was later dropped.


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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