The three-way Mille Lacs County attorney race heated up last week when Assistant County Attorney Mark Herzing criticized Mille Lacs County Attorney Jan Jude for her dismissal of a speeding ticket in December 2012.
Herzing is opposing Jude in the race for county attorney.
A state trooper issued the ticket on Nov. 17, 2012, to an 18-year-old male who Jude confirmed was a friend of one of Jude’s children. The ticket was for going 69 mph in a 55 mph zone while passing a vehicle on Highway 23 in Milaca Township.
Herzing spoke to the Union-Eagle about it July 15 within hours of the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners passing a motion to place him on an unpaid leave of absence until he is no longer a candidate for Mille Lacs County attorney.
The commissioners’ action was a concurrence with the county’s Personnel Board of Appeals’ opinion that it would be a conflict of interest for Herzing to remain active in the job while a candidate for his boss’s job.
Herzing called Jude’s dismissal of the speeding ticket “the tipping point” for him to run for Mille Lacs County attorney. Herzing made it clear that he was faulting the ticket dismissal because the subject was a friend of a member of Jude’s family and that he felt the dismissal didn’t meet guidelines.
One of the exceptions for keeping a speeding ticket off a person’s record is if the driver has a clean record and is not exceeding 68 mph in a 55 mph zone, he said. The guideline for making an exception in that case would be for the violator to pay the original fine at the clocked speed but to keep the infraction off the record, according to Herzing.
The Union-Eagle sought and received a response from Jude regarding the ticket and the fact that Herzing brought it up.
Jude, in an interview July 17, said that before she dismissed the speeding ticket, she checked with the state trooper who issued it and also with more than one prosecutor.
She said she asked all of them if a dismissal would be right and that they responded that it would be.
The 69 mph that the man was clocked at was only 4 mph over what a motorist is legally allowed to drive when passing a car in a 55 mph zone, she said. The young man had a clean record and had some tough things going on in his life at the time of the ticket, added Jude, who declined to elaborate publicly.
Herzing is alleging conflict of interest in the ticket-dismissal when Jude has “great prosecuting discretion for charges, dismissals and in negotiation,” she said.
It is not out of the ordinary for reducing the severity of charges in cases or dismissing charges, she added. At the same time, the commissioners have a right to make sure its county attorney’s office runs efficiently and that someone employed by the office is not harming or creating the potential for harm of the public good, Jude added.
She also called Herzing’s bringing up the traffic ticket dismissal negative campaigning.
“You start dragging my child (into the county attorney’s race), that’s a negative, and I don’t think he should be,” Jude said.
Going back to the ticket dismissal, Jude said that a prosecutor’s job involves being “fair and compassionate to people.”
She called Herzing’s making an issue of the ticket dismissal an attempt to make her look bad, and that his doing so “seems unjust.”