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Letter: Everyone must live within the law

To the Editor:

For years, Wabasha County, through the Sheriff’s Department and approval of other public officials, has been operating a traffic diversion program — the Safe Driving Class — that the district court recently found unauthorized under state law.

For years, despite the state auditor’s repeated warnings of the diversion program’s questionable legality (and doing nothing about it), the sheriff continued to ignore state law. This meant that for years the Sheriff’s Department has improperly collected moneys from citizens for minor traffic infractions.

Before the commencement of the lawsuit that put a stop to the county’s diversion program — permanently — we tried to present a resolution to the board to bring a legally sufficient traffic offense diversion program governed by state law to the county. Each time, the board leadership thwarted our efforts. Each time, the board leadership rejected our resolution and kept it from the agenda.

We do not object to a traffic diversion program. We objected to law enforcement’s illegal program and their willingness to disobey the law they are sworn to obey. All we ask is that a diversion program for minor traffic offenses be legal.

It serves the public well that law enforcement officials obey the law – just as private citizens must. It’s called good government, since it is a government by the people and for the people.

We respect the law. The law can be sword when necessary; it can be an olive branch as well. Our resolution, committed to the creation of a legal diversion program, is an olive branch to those who have broken the law, however minor the traffic offense, to give the people an option from expensive court proceedings personally and monetarily.

But we must proceed as the law instructs us to do so. Without the rule of law there is anarchy; there is no democracy. We must fight for democracy and for the rule of law. We are both committed to continue that fight, like it or not.

Dave Harms

Lake City

Deb Roschen

Zumbro Falls

Dave Harms and Deb Roschen are Wabasha County commissioners.