Washington County Sheriff’s Office completes sign theft investigation

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Photo by Ryan Howard Forest Lake city staff collected many campaign signs posted in city rights of way Oct. 14, but signs in state and county rights of way, like many of the signs shown here in a grassy patch east of U.S. Highway 61, remained. An eastern portion of this patch of grass is on private property, but the majority of it is a state right of way.

Photo by Ryan Howard
Forest Lake city staff collected many campaign signs posted in city rights of way Oct. 14, but signs in state and county rights of way, like many of the signs shown here in a grassy patch east of U.S. Highway 61, remained. An eastern portion of this patch of grass is on private property, but the majority of it is a state right of way.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office will not be citing Forest Lake City Councilman Ben Winnick with any crime, nor suggesting charges, after an investigation into an allegation that he was involved with taking campaign-related signs earlier this month. However, the sheriff’s office did cite his wife, Rimma Winnick, for misdemeanor theft after a Forest Lake police officer allegedly saw three signs in the back of her vehicle on Oct. 10.

It’s a citation her attorney, Kevin Short, is confident will be dismissed when reviewed by a prosecutor.

“That citation is absurd on its face,” he wrote in a press release to The Forest Lake Times.

The claims surrounding the Winnicks first began circulating online on Oct. 8, after Forest Lake resident Michael LaFave posted a video on social media that depicts Ben Winnick walking toward a sign LaFave had placed in a highway easement on the west side of U.S. Highway 61, near the Allina Health clinic. LaFave had placed several such signs around town; they read “Winnick voted to lay off police” in reference to the December 2015 City Council vote to approve the layoff of police officer Max Boukal (learn more about the video and the events surrounding it attinyurl.com/hlaggya).

In LaFave’s video, Winnick does not take the sign; when LaFave approaches him, he turns around and speaks briefly to LaFave before getting back into his vehicle, which is parked nearby. Washington County Sgt. Sara Halverson said that no citation or charges would be forthcoming for Winnick due to lack of evidence. Ben Winnick told The Times he was never spoken to by law enforcement during the time the investigation was ostensibly occurring.

Continue reading this Forest Lake Times story.

〉 Related: City staff collect campaign signs after complaint

 

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