Former Crow Wing County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Dan Gottsch, who was fired in June, reached a $10,000 settlement with the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday.
County commissioners discussed the issue in closed session with Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan. When the meeting reopened, the board voted unanimously to agree to the settlement. There was no discussion. Ryan said the county was not taking a position one way or another on the issue and agreed to a $10,000 lump sum.
After the meeting, Ryan said the county had no legal exposure but agreed to the settlement to avoid litigation. Ryan said Gottsch threatened litigation with the county but never sued. But Ryan said Gottsch informed him he was reviewing options with his attorney John Erickson.
The agreement states Gottsch will be paid the $10,000 for settlement and resolution of any and all claims he may have against the county from his employment.
The written severance agreement also stated the sheriff informed the board the reason Gottsch was fired was "incompatibility of philosophies concerning the managing of the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department."
Crow Wing County Sheriff Dick Ross Tuesday said Gottsch was fired because of large discrepancies on Gottsch's time sheets.
"He had hours filled in when he wasn't (on the job)," said Ross, who was notified of the problem in June. "I'm trying to run my department with as much integrity as I can, and I couldn't trust (Gottsch)."
Gottsch said the predominant issue he hears about for the firing is time management. Gottsch said from March to May he acted as an organizer for the governor's fishing opener with the idea there would be voids at work. Gottsch said Ross was supportive of the effort.
"If it's time management between those months there were times I was not in the office," Gottsch said, adding he was also available by phone for 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. phone calls. Gottsch said the sheriff never discussed an issue of time management or any other issue with him before the firing.
Monday Gottsch said he has political and personal ambitions and it was not "in his heart to sue Crow Wing County." Gottsch said he appealed to what he considered a compassionate county board.
"I feel I've earned it and it's also a sign of my redemption," Gottsch said of the settlement, adding it basically said he did nothing wrong. "I will agree I am incompatible with the sheriff's management policies."
After the board meeting, Commissioner Terry Sluss said the settlement was less than a lawsuit and took into consideration the issues of unused vacation and sick leave. Gottsch was employed by the sheriff's department since 1990.
Gottsch said his firing on June 22 was a surprise to him and came after the county paid for two days of driving school training in St. Cloud. He said Ryan and Peter Herlofsky Jr., county administrator, were present when he was dismissed.
Gottsch said the sheriff's stated reason "was basically he lost confidence in me and I lost confidence in him."
Gottsch said he resigned two years ago and the sheriff convinced him to come back. Asked today, Ross said he knew nothing about Gottsch resigning earlier.
With the settlement, Ross said he considers the matter closed.
"(The settlement) ends any entanglement or argument he would have toward me and my department, so it's over with," said Ross Tuesday, adding he was informed of the decision by Ryan.
It is likely the issues may resurface if both men run for sheriff in the next election. Gottsch said he is thinking about running for the office and expects to make a public decision in two weeks.
"It's not just one thing," he said. "These are campaign issues and they will be issues down the road."
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