Did sheriff live in Ramsey Co.? Activists seek probe

Minnesota Public Radio News

Issues Tim Nelson · St. Paul · Jan 4, 2018

A St. Paul citizens watchdog group is asking the county to launch an investigation into the appointment of Jack Serier as the Ramsey County sheriff last year, and is raising more questions about whether he lived in the county at the time, as required.

St. Paul STRONG is a volunteer group chaired by former mayoral and City Council candidate John Mannillo. Its members also include former Sen. David Durenberger and community activist Yusef Mgeni. The group sent a letter to the county board on Tuesday questioning Serier's eligibility to be appointed sheriff.

"That they did not validate his residency exemplifies a pattern of behavior by the RCBC [Ramsey County Board of Commissioners] that lacks transparency and public participation, which essentially allows the RCBC to do what they want to do with impunity," the letter says.

Serier was a longtime resident of Stillwater when he was working in 2016 for then-Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom, who stepped down.

• Dec. 21: Sheriff's residency at center of Ramsey County spat

"He's meeting residency in a manner that's expedient at best," said Roy Magnuson, a member of St. Paul STRONG, in an interview about Serier's appointment and tenure as sheriff.

Magnuson also said he thinks it's giving Serier a political advantage for an election to the post this fall, noting that one of the county commissioners, Victoria Reinhardt, is one of the chairs of Serier's campaign.

Ramsey County Board Chair Jim McDonough declined to reopen the question on Thursday, and told St. Paul Strong in a letter that the county won't investigate.

"This issue's been raised a couple times now and nothing's changed as far as we're concerned here," McDonough said in an interview. He said the county was satisfied that Serier was and is eligible to be sheriff, "absolutely."

It's the latest round of legal doubts raised about the Ramsey County sheriff.

The controversy started last month, when former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher first publicly questioned Serier's residence. Serier was second-in-command to Sheriff Matt Bostrom, who in 2010 challenged and beat Fletcher, who'd himself been a four-term sheriff.

Although he had been living in Stillwater, Serier says he'd signed a lease for Bostrom's Payne Avenue townhome in St. Paul as Bostrom prepared to resign and take a research position at Oxford University in England.

Fletcher continues to question the validity of that residence and Serier's eligibility, and has asked the county board to request and examine location data for Serier's county-provided cell phone to show his whereabouts in late 2016 and early 2017, as Bostrom was preparing to step down.

Fletcher also has not ruled out running for his old post, although he's serving as Vadnais Heights mayor now.

Serier said there's no question about his residence and eligibility. Last month, he made public a series of documents, including his lease for Bostrom's St. Paul home, which he and his wife have since purchased. He also released utility bills for the home that predate his appointment as sheriff by the county board last year.

"The residency matter is settled," Serier said in an interview on Thursday. "It was settled before I took office."

He also welcomed the county board's confidence in him in the letter to St. Paul STRONG.

"The process for selecting the replacement is grounded in law, but is also the county board's decision to make," Serier said. "So, whatever that process was going to be, I respect that process, and I'm proud to serve as the sheriff of the county."