Training video or campaign promotion? Sheriff Stanek takes heat over 35W project

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Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek is facing criticism from media and elected officials for a training video produced by the sheriff’s office of the response to the 35W bridge collapse. Critics allege that Stanek misrepresented the emergency response, that the video appears to be more of a campaign ad than training tool and that his choice of production company for the video is suspect.

The company that produced the video was a St. Cloud company called the Johnson Group, which also did “extensive campaign” work for Stanek’s election in 2006, according to Fox 9 News’ Tom Lyden. Employees of the Johnson Group also contributed to Stanek’s campaign. The total cost of the video was $30,000, but the job was split at $15,000 between two companies — $15,000 is the threshold for bidding on county projects.

Several Hennepin County commissioners have expressed concern over the video. Commissioner Penny Steele told the Star Tribune that she wasn’t sure if the video was really a training video. “I’m sort of struggling to find the purpose of the video,” she said. Commissioner Mike Opat told KARE 11 that the use of public funds for the video was “questionable.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan expressed concerns over the accuracy of the video in an email leaked to Brian Lambert at Mpls-St. Paul Magazine. “His theft of the credit is not going to sit well with my staff and our hard working partners,” Dolan wrote. Mayor [R.T Rybak] and Barb, you were at the meeting with the president – I asked for the Navy divers. I also met privately with the Gov to reinforce that issue and asked him to convince Rich to accept that offer.”

“You know, I disagree,” Stanek told KARE 11. “I’ve spoken to the commissioners that commented over the weekend in the local paper. They did not have the benefit of seeing the presentation that goes with the video. They saw snippets of it.”

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