Ethics Complaint Against County Zoning Administrator, Aaron Lacher
Subject: Aaron Lacher, Houston County Zoning Administrator Petitioners: Michael Fields 11191 Wildflower Drive Caledonia, MN 55921
February 14, 2018
Zoning Administrator, Aaron Lacher deliberately mislead the Board of Commissioners on October 17, 2017 when he told the Board there was no way to judge the “cumulative potential effects” of mining on the environment because a letter he sent to a landowner (Gary Meiners) had not been answered and because, according to the Zoning Administrator, “We don’t have a plan on the table for any other project in that area right now.” (See 10/17/17 Board recording [BELOW] starting at about 1:05:00)
However, the Zoning Administrator has known since at least March 23, 2017 that a plan was on the table and had been since November 2, 2015. (See attached.)
Background: Meiners owns the land containing the Schutz quarry (operated by Gary Kruckow) which abuts property owned by Skyline Materials along County 5 in Winnebago Valley. Skyline is applying for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to expand its current operation there. Having to consider the cumulative effect of the Schutz quarry’s operation could trigger the need for a costly, time-consuming Environmental Impact Statement.
This violates several provisions of the Houston County Code of Ethics Section 3:
Promote decisions which only benefit the public interest. By withholding what he knew about the Schutz quarry plans from the Board (and possibly the State), the Zoning Administrator seems to have favored one mining company over another and deprived the public of a proper environmental assessment.
Actively promote public confidence in County government. By withholding what he knew about the Schutz quarry reclamation plan, the Zoning Administrator has created the appearance of preferring Skyline Materials over the Kruckow operation. Consider: Both operations shared the same legal status – undesignated. But, despite Kruckow making his intentions known two years earlier, Kruckow was put on hold while Skyline got the green light. Now, when Kruckow applies for a CUP, Kruckow will be held to the cumulative effects provision – not Skyline. This is the kind of thing that makes citizens doubt that they’ll be treated fairly and impartially by the Zoning Office.
Faithfully comply with all laws, regulations and policies applicable to the County and impartially apply them to everyone. The County requires reclamation plans from anyone planning to mine in Houston County. The Schutz quarry has submitted a plan. Skyline has not. So, despite complying with the reclamation plan requirement and making his intention to excavate the Schutz quarry known two years earlier, Kruckow had to wait while Skyline – who has done neither, to my knowledge – goes to the head of the line. This has the appearance of favoritism.
Maintain a positive image to pass constant public scrutiny.
Properly administer the affairs of the County.
If something isn’t gravely awry in the Zoning Office, the impression that there is has certainly been created. I expect the County to treat these charges with the seriousness they deserve. The Zoning Administrator is currently working on projects that have the potential to negatively impact my quality of life and economic stability if regulations are fudged and Commissioners mislead. Therefore I expect the County to initiate a timely, independent investigation as precedent dictates.