Former Sheriff Fletcher denies fabricating terrorism investigations
Former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher is firing back at a Twin Cities Daily Planet report that says he lied about the work his deputies did on terrorist organizations.
Specifically, the article questions the existence of 78 information briefs on terrorist groups that Fletcher reported his deputies compiled from 2005 to 2009, based on public records and an interview with new Ramsey County Sheriff public information officer Randy Gustafson.
"There's many terms that would define the stupidity of Mr. Gustafson's statements," Fletcher told City Pages in response. "The simple one is, he's clueless."
In October 2010, Karen Hollish put in a data practices request demanding explanation of the 33 domestic and international terrorist organizations Fletcher claims to have investigated according to the County's 2009 budget.
According to Ramsey County's 2009 budget, the sheriff's department investigated 22 domestic and 11 international terrorism groups.
When she realized shaking loose the information would take more work, Hollish submitted a pitch to the community journalism website Spot.us, and raised $575 to pay her salary during the investigation (legal fees were donated). Last week, Bostrom's new public information officer Randy Gustafson called Hollish with a bombshell about the terrorism reports.
Fletcher says he was never contacted by Hollish and hadn't yet read her article when first contacted by City Pages early this afternoon.
He says during the two-month transition period late last year to Bostrom's command, neither Bostrom nor Gustafson made any inquiries about his terrorism work. He says the person who would know most about the briefs, head of the home security unit Gary Olding, was fired on Jan. 2 and may have taken the documentation with him.
"The new Sheriff Bostorm fired Mr. Olding on Jan. 2," he says. "I can understand why it's difficult for him to get specific information."
Deputies did do much of their initial research simply by surfing the web and watching the news, Fletcher admits, but that was not the extent of it. How they spent their time on those higher level investigations was none of Hollish's business, says Fletcher.
"We don't have an obligation to define which individual or groups we're spending most of our investigative time on," he says.
Fletcher claims his officers attended over 100 meetings in their anti-terrorism work and collaborated with other agencies, which would have seen the phantom terrorism briefs. Some of the briefs were oral presentations so no physical record would exist.
But the investigations couldn't have been too thorough--the Animal Liberation Front is misidentified as the American Liberation Front. Forget terrorism, the sheriff's department couldn't figure out acronyms.
Mary Turck, the editor of TC Daily Planet, says Fletcher had three month to respond to Hollish's original data practices request and didn't return numerous emails and phone calls to his office.
"He's legally required to respond and he did not," says Turck.
Even if Fletcher's officers did the work he says they did, it appears none of the terrorism data remains in the hands of the current sheriff, and that's a problem.
"We're supposed to have a plan in place at the Ramsey County Sheriff's office for dealing with these threats," says Gustafson. "It's a little bit disconcerting that we don't have them."
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