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Legal opinion on requested 2020 election audit expected Tuesday

Several meetings of the board this fall and winter featured requests for a forensic audit of the election results in Crow Wing County, beginning with the Oct. 26 meeting, one week shy of a year after Election Day 2020.

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Jeremy Pekula speaks during a Dec. 14 county board meeting to repeat a request for a forensic audit of the 2020 election results in Crow Wing County. Pekula was among a standing-room-only crowd, several of whom forwarded unproven or false accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 election. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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A legal opinion on whether the Crow Wing County Board can initiate and perform a forensic audit of the 2020 election results is expected from County Attorney Don Ryan on Tuesday, Dec. 28.

Ryan told commissioners and a boardroom filled to standing room only with people seeking the audit Dec. 14 he was in the process of researching the question and would present his findings during the board’s last regular meeting of the year.

The county attorney offered this information following a series of statements by audience members during the open forum portion of that meeting, including a number of unproven or false accusations of voter fraud associated with the 2020 election. Many of the accusations mirror those forwarded by former President Donald Trump and his allies before, during and after the election.

Don Ryan
Don Ryan

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Several meetings of the board this fall and winter featured requests for a forensic audit of the election results in Crow Wing County, beginning with the Oct. 26 meeting, one week shy of a year after Election Day 2020.

“I’m wondering where — like everybody else here — where’s the answers?” said Jeremy Pekula, who at previous meetings identified himself as Morrison County resident. “We’ve asked the county attorney — you the board actually asked the county attorney for questions, for answers, what, seven weeks ago now? And I’m under the impression you might not get those either. Why not? What are we waiting for?”

RELATED: County board chair asks for legal opinion on potential 2020 election audit

Other speakers joined in the calls for an audit, and once no one else approached the microphone, Commissioner Paul Koering asked for an update from Ryan on his expected legal opinion. Koering participated in the meeting remotely from his residence in Florida and was not present at the Nov. 9 meeting when Chairman Steve Barrows requested Ryan’s opinion due to illness.


"We’ve asked the county attorney — you the board actually asked the county attorney for questions, for answers, what, seven weeks ago now? And I’m under the impression you might not get those either. Why not?"

— Jeremy Pekula


“I know Don (Ryan) is extremely busy in his office, so just wondering Don if you’ve been able to get any research done on what the county board can do legally? We’re really — we have to listen to the state, we’re a creation of state government,” Koering said as members of the crowd interrupted in disagreement. “So I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but have you been able to get any research done on what we can do to address these citizens’ concerns?”

Ryan explained the research he was conducting and how it fit into the workload of his office.

RELATED: Crowd seeks 2020 election audit in Crow Wing County

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“I am in the process of researching it. The question you have asked is not a simple question,” Ryan said. “You may think it is a simple legal question. It is not. I have spent hours reading through the statutes. I’m now cross-referencing those with rules and then I have to get through some case law.

“… I said I’d get it done this year, and I will. But we also have a homicide pending and several other important criminal cases and lots of other issues going on. So I apologize it’s taking so long, Mr. Chairman and everybody else, but I am working on it.”

“We appreciate you doing your due diligence,” Barrows responded.


"I am in the process of researching it. The question you have asked is not a simple question. You may think it is a simple legal question. It is not."

— County Attorney Don Ryan


RELATED: Event outlining 2020 election fraud claims encourages local involvement
Koering thanked Ryan and the people who attended the Dec. 14 meeting to repeat their request, but added he hoped they wouldn’t leave the boardroom before commissioners conducted the business on the agenda that night — a public hearing and motions to consider the county’s property tax levy as well as the nearly $100 million budget for 2022.

“This meeting that you’re at tonight is one of the most important meetings that the county board has every year. And that’s the budget,” Koering said. “That’s where we’re going to spend the money, spend your money. So if all of you get up and leave right after this, that kind of tells me that you don’t even care about the money and where the money is spent.”

RELATED: Moorhead man gets home arrest for part in Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

Koering’s statement was again met by a murmur of response from the crowd, including some boos and a man who said, “We’re a conservative county.”

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“Well, I hope you stay and listen to the budget presentation,” Koering added.


"So if all of you get up and leave right after this, that kind of tells me that you don’t even care about the money and where the money is spent."

— Commissioner Paul Koering


“The vote is important,” said another voice from the crowd.

A majority of those in attendance left the boardroom when commissioners called for a recess ahead of the scheduled budget and levy public hearing, but some did stay for the budget and levy presentation. No one spoke during the public hearing.

RELATED: 'Huge defeat for Donald Trump': Arizona election review reaffirms Biden win

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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