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Helga Township: No charges, attorney affirms

HELGA TOWNSHIP – The Hubbard County attorney has reaffirmed his position that criminal charges are not being pursued against a former Helga Township board member.

County Attorney Donovan Dearstyne sent a letter Aug. 22 to the Helga town board stating that his previous decision from September 2011 stands.

“Though there were violations of the Statutes as determined by an audit, there was not sufficient evidence to establish criminal intent,” he wrote.

Mike Sherwood, Helga Township supervisor, referenced Dearstyne’s letter during the town board’s Tuesday meeting as he updated the board on statute violations found in the audit. Citing the letter, Sherwood made a motion to have the town board close the matter; his motion passed unanimously.

The investigation focused on former Helga Township board member Silas Hooker and an audit that was done in 2010, examining the township’s financial records from 2008 and 2009.

The town board has stated it had questions regarding Hooker and “compliance with required procedures” and turned over information to prosecutors for investigation.

Hooker has said the dispute is over a kitchen remodel he agreed to do for the township. Hooker said his bid was at least $15,000 less than the next-lowest bid and he didn’t vote on awarding it.

The work, he told the Pioneer earlier this month, remains unfinished due to an ongoing dispute.

Dearstyne sent a letter on Sept. 16, 2011, stating that he would not be filing charges against Hooker because of insufficient evidence to show criminal intent.

That letter was sent 10 months before the current board released a written statement that it had forwarded information to prosecutors for review.

The latest letter from Dearstyne confirmed that additional information was sent to a Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office investigator after Dearstyne had sent the Sept. 16, 2011, letter.

“Additional information came to light that logistically was not able to be followed up on until this summer,” Dearstyne wrote. “That information was received and as I indicated in my letter of September 16, 2011, though there were violations of the Statutes as determined by an audient, there was not sufficient evidence to establish criminal intent. Therefore, my decision of September 16, 2011, stands.”

Earlier in the meeting, the town board rejected a request from a township resident to add 11 discussion items to its agenda.

Resident Doug Crosby, who is fighting Helga Township in court over a temporary restraining order prohibiting him from excavating rocks from his property, emailed the township clerk on Aug. 23 requesting that 11 items be included on the agenda for discussion.

“Tonight, we expect continued challenges on how this meeting is being run and what rights the board has in conducting it,” said Mike Smith, chairman of the town board, as he opened the meeting. “After discussion with our attorney as well as confirmation from the county attorney on the subject, our position is as follows:

“Township meetings are conducted and controlled by the township board. The primary purpose of these meetings is to conduct the township’s business as the board sees fit. Those topics discussed, the amount of discussion, and who will be heard, is at the sole discretion of the board.”

Smith made a motion to table Crosby’s agenda requests to allow the town board to develop a policy about agenda addendums; it passed unanimously.