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Minnesotans sue over ticket diversion classes

A group of nine Minnesota residents filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday requesting that 36 cities and counties — including Goodhue County and the city of Red Wing — return fees for traffic-ticket diversion programs.

Filed in Wabasha County District Court, the suit follows a court ruling in January that declared a safe-driving class in Wabasha County illegal because the Sheriff’s Office kept program revenue without sharing any with the state — which takes a portion of all traffic fines.

Now citizens want cities and counties to return all of the collected fees, estimated by the state auditor at around $2 million since 2010.

Devised as an alternative to paying certain traffic tickets, the programs offer local driving classes for a fee of $75 to $125. Completing the class meant the ticket would not go onto attendees’ records or affect insurance premiums.

The January ruling prompted governments to close similar classes statewide while the issue gets worked out in the Legislature. Goodhue County and the city of Red wing decided to suspend temporarily their diversion programs earlier this year.

A number of bills have been introduced so far this legislative session that address diversion programs, including one co-authored by Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, that would allow such programs with a maximum fee of $75. The proposal is under discussion.

The class action also names as a plaintiff the Association for Government Accountability, a watchdog group that was part of the original suit against Wabasha County.

Attorney Erick Kaardal, who is representing the plaintiffs, could not be reached Friday for comment.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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