REGIONAL— Eighth District congressional candidate Pete Stauber is facing a new complaint over misuse of St. Louis County resources to advance his run for Congress. Stauber is a St. Louis County …
REGIONAL— Eighth District congressional candidate Pete Stauber is facing a new complaint over misuse of St. Louis County resources to advance his run for Congress. Stauber is a St. Louis County Commissioner who represents the Duluth area.
The latest complaint, filed Sept. 17 by county social worker Dennis Frazier, alleges that Stauber invited an Oregon congressman, Greg Walden, to Duluth last month, ostensibly to learn more about the treatment and recovery help being offeredin St. Louis County for those suffering from opioid addiction under a program funded by the state of Minnesota and the county.
Walden did attend an event at the Clear Path Clinic in Duluth on Aug. 29, an event that was promoted by St. Louis County’s communications director Dana Kazel in a press release issued to news media and posted on the county’s website. The press release indicated that Rep. Walden would take part in a roundtable discussion with Stauber and fellow St. Louis County Commissioner Beth Olson, along with representatives from Clear Path.
Walden, a Republican who represents Oregon’s Second District, chairs the House Commerce and Energy Committee and is the author of H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act.
Frazier said the event itself isn’t the issue. “Highlighting steps being taken to combat the opioid epidemic is undoubtedly an appropriate use of county resources,” reads the two-page letter of complaint that Frazier submitted to County Board Chair Keith Nelson and County Administrator Kevin Gray earlier this week. “However, Commissioner Stauber’s decision to appear at the event in order to promote his candidacy for U.S. Congress, rather than attending in his official capacity as a county commissioner, allowed him to take advantage of his position.”
The complaint cites television footage of the event, in which name plates made for the roundtable participants identified Stauber as a congressional candidate, rather than a commissioner.
The complaint also notes that Stauber and Kazel used their county Twitter accounts to highlight the event. Frazier believes the incident is a violation of the St. Louis County Code of Conduct that, among other things, prohibits the use of county resources to advance one’s political ambitions.
“An elected official using their public office to campaign for higher office is just wrong,” said Frazier, who questions whether the recent examples of Stauber’s use of county resources represents a pattern of behavior. “This may just be the tip of the iceberg,” said Frazier.
St. Louis County spokesperson Dana Kazel said the opioid roundtable was a chance to highlight a successful partnership. “Regardless of how others might characterize this meeting, this was an opportunity for St. Louis County to showcase and tour the ClearPath Clinic and the six-bed opioid withdrawal unit that is being funded with money made available by the 21st Century Cures Act and other state and county resources. The meeting resulted in a productive dialogue involving many partners in this battle against opioids.”
Frazier’s complaint comes less than a week after Eighth District DFL Chair Emily Nygren filed a complaint against Stauber for alleged misuse of his county email for political purposes. While acknowledging that the cost of sending an email is small, Nygren said the county needs to take the matter seriously. “The misuse of government resources, even in small amounts, can snowball into the public’s lack of faith in elected public servants, who must both ensure the public trust while in office and campaign fairly in compliance with the law,” Nyberg added.
The Timberjay sought comment from the Stauber campaign, which did not respond prior to presstime.