Updated: No Charges for Mendota Heights Police Chief, Sergeant

An investigation did not turn up probable cause or a likelihood of conviction, according to Carver County assistant attorney.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 5 p.m. Monday to include information from attorney Ryan Kaess.

There will be no charges filed against Mendota Heights Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener or Sgt. Eric Petersen regarding allegations of misconduct made last winter.

The findings of an investigation completed by the Carver County Sheriff's Office were released Monday morning. 

"It is tragic that the taxpayers time and money was wasted over what amounted to little more than false and unsubstantiated allegations," said attorney Ryan Kaess, who represented both Aschenbrener and Petersen.

Neither of his clients gave statements to investigators. 

The investigation began after a letter of complaint representing some Mendota Heights police officers was sent from the Law Enforcement Labor Services office to  in February. The names of the officers behind the letter were never made public.

The letter claimed that Aschenbrener ignored or declined to investigate three incidents of police misconduct involving the theft of a picnic table, a cell phone, and a Dakota County Drug Task Force bag. Petersen was also accused of being involved in the incidents.

Miller handed off the letter to Carver County for investigation.

Aschenbrener, who has been with the department since 2003, has continued as head of the department in the meantime.

The investigation found that, "The Mendota Heights Police Department has a demonstrable level of dissonance and conflict. Moreover, this discord has led to different individuals having different agendas, which in turn, caused considerable insinuations, gossip and recriminations," according to the prosecutorial review completed by Carver County Asst. Attorney Peter Ivy. "The law classifies such information as inadmissible hearsay."

In the case of the picnic table taken from the vacant Lilydale Tennis Club during the 2008 Republican National Convention, the table was returned to the property, possibly at the direction of Aschenbrener. Ivy states that the statute of limitations has passed regardless of whether a crime was committed.

The Dakota County Drug Task Force bag contained evidence-handling materials and information/forms for an investigation. It disappeared after a change of personnel in September of 2010. It was found in the trunk of a seized vehicle that had been sold at auction, and was returned, then passed through the possession of two officers, one being Petersen. Ivy attributed the mishandling to "inadvertent oversight" and said there was no legal basis for charges. 

The cell phone seized after a DWI stop in 2011 was never assigned a case number, and eventually ordered by Petersen to be destroyed, according to the investigation. The phone was not ultimately destroyed.

"Standard and routine evidentiary protocols for logging and tracking evidence were not employed with regard to this cell phone," according to the report, but no legal basis for charges was found. 

Mendota Heights Mayor Sandra Krebsbach released this statement:

“We take allegations of misconduct and unlawful behavior of our employees very seriously, as evidenced by the thorough investigation by an outside entity. We are pleased that charges are not going to be filed, as Carver County did not find any evidence of criminal behavior. We appreciate and fully support the hard work of our Police Chief, Sergeant Petersen, and the entire Mendota Heights Police Department. We know they do their jobs every day with the interests of our residents and businesses foremost in their minds. We look forward to putting this investigation behind us and moving forward, continuing to focus on best serving the Mendota Heights community.”

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Danielle Cabot April 30, 2012 at 05:45 PM
You can read the prosecutorial review in the attached pdf. Does anyone have any insight into this internal squabbling mentioned?


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