Drazkowski levels aim at Wabasha County prosecutorA state board is investigating the Wabasha County attorney following claims that criminal charges he filed against Rep. Steve Drazkowski were politically motivated.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
A state board is investigating the Wabasha County attorney following claims that criminal charges he filed against Rep. Steve Drazkowski were politically motivated.
In a complaint filed with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Wabasha County Attorney James Nordstrom is accused of maliciously filing a criminal charge against Drazkowski for an alleged 2008 election violation.
"Mr. Nordstrom was abusing his power from his position of Wabasha County attorney to harass and intimidate me on the apparent basis of my political affiliation and position," Drazkowski, a Wabasha Republican, states in a complaint obtained by the Republican Eagle.
Patrick Burns, first assistant director for the lawyers' responsibility board, confirmed Monday that the complaint was received and is being investigated. Lawyers found in violation of the board's rules can have charges forwarded to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Possible outcomes at the high court include dismissing the charges or issuing punishment, ranging from private reprimand to public disbarment.
Burns said about 40 Minnesota lawyers receive public discipline each year.
Nordstrom's attorney, Phil Villaume, denied allegations of misconduct, calling them "totally and completely unfounded."
"Mr. Nordstrom has an excellent reputation as a public official, prosecutor and lawyer," Villaume said. "He plans to zealously defend that name and reputation."
He said Nordstrom is preparing a response to the lawyers' responsibility board.
The most extensive allegations against Nordstrom stem from a 2008 Election Day run-in between Drazkowski and an election judge at the Kellogg city auditorium. Drazkowski, the incumbent, was wearing a polo shirt with "House of Representatives" embroidered on it, the complaint states.
The election judge, named in the complaint as Elizabeth Snitgen, allegedly told Drazkowski "shame on you," and that wearing the shirt at a polling place was an election law violation.
Drazkowski went on to defeat Democratic challenger Linda Pfeilsticker in the election.
On Nov. 20, Drazkowski was charged with violating fair campaign practices by soliciting votes within 100 feet of a polling place, a petty misdemeanor.
The case, which was turned over to Red Wing City Council member and Assistant Wabasha County Attorney Lisa Bayley, was dismissed Jan. 30.
In the complaint to the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, Drazkowski says Nordstrom — who was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1975 — singled him out with the charge. Drazkowski claims the allegations were maliciously funneled into a criminal prosecution instead of being forwarded to the state's Office of Administrative Hearings, which commonly hears election- and campaign-related cases.
According to state data submitted in the complaint, Drazkowski is the first person in Wabasha County ever charged with the offense.
"The blatant dishonesty displayed by Mr. Nordstrom is deafening," Drazkowski wrote in the complaint.
He also accuses Nordstrom of breaking from prosecution protocol by receiving the complaint in his office and soliciting law enforcement's cooperation afterward. County attorneys generally charge suspects after a complaint and investigation have been logged with law enforcement.
Drazkowski said the Minnesota County Attorney president told him such a break from protocol "never" happens.
"At this point, I firmly believed I was again the victim of malicious and unethical behavior of James Nordstrom," the complaint states.
Drazkowski said no documentation of Snitgen's official complaints were ever released to him.
In the complaint, Drazkowski also cites 2005 criminal charges filed against him by Nordstrom as an example of "complete and deliberate ignorance of prosecutorial discretion." A jury acquitted Drazkowski after he was charged with fifth-degree domestic assault. He denied allegations of abuse in the case, saying he was properly disciplining his daughter during the incident.
Reached Monday, Drazkowski said he was disappointed the complaint was leaked to the media and declined to discuss the matter further.
"The process has to happen without the scrutiny of the public," he said.