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Ramsey County Commissioner’s colleagues remove him from board overseeing jail

The Ramsey County Commission removed one of its own members from the board overseeing the troubled Lake Region Law Enforcement Center.

In a succession of 4-1 votes Friday, the Commission removed Commissioner Bill Mertens, replacing him with Ed Brown as one of its two representatives on the board. Ramsey County Commission Chairman Mark Olson is the Commission’s other board representative.

Mertens, who chaired the LEC board, cast the dissenting vote in both cases, according to County Auditor Elizabeth Fischer.

Friday’s action comes after a July 31 LEC board meeting in which Mertens voted against a motion made by Olson to dismiss LEC Operation Administrator Denny Deegan. The majority of the County Commission favored the dismissal. The motion failed on a 3-4 vote.

Deegan remains on the job.

The LEC has been plagued by staff turnover, wage and overtime issues over the past several months.

In April, the North Dakota Department of Corrections ordered the LEC to stop housing juveniles, citing state regulation violations that resulted from staffing issues.

The board earlier decided to work toward reopening the facility by 2016. Since the juvenile facility closed, juveniles have been transported to the Grand Forks County Juvenile Detention Center.

In a lengthy letter in the Devils Lake Journal this week, Mertens addressed the recent issues.

“The problems outlined in letters recently brought out to public scrutiny have been addressed,” he wrote. “The problems that have been faced by the Board have not been the fault of the Administration.”

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.  

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