Probable cause found in campaign complaint

November 20, 2016 GMT

HIBBING — An administrative law judge has determined there is sufficient evidence to support probable cause to believe that Mike Jugovich violated a portion of the Fair Campaign Practices Act while campaigning for St. Louis County Commissioner District 7.

In an order dated Nov. 14, Administrative Law Judge Laurasue Schlatter writes that Jugovich prepared and disseminated campaign fliers that included a claim of endorsement from the mayor of Hibbing without getting Mayor Rick Cannata’s written permission.

Candidates may not state in written campaign materials that he/she has the support or endorsement of an individual without first getting written permission from the individual to do so, according to the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

“The statutory requirement that a candidate get written permission before claiming an endorsement appears to be designed to avoid exactly the sort of misunderstanding that resulted in this complaint,” wrote Schlatter.

The complaint was filed Nov. 3 with the Office of Administrative Hearings by the campaign manager for Melissa Scaia, also a candidate for St. Louis County Commissioner District 7.

A probable cause hearing was held Wednesday, Nov. 9 — the day following the General Election — via phone. Jugovich, who is currently serving as mayor of Chisholm, won the election with 52 percent of votes.

In her analysis, Schlatter wrote that Jugovich acknowledges that fliers contained the endorsement, which he claimed to have included because of miscommunication with Cannata.

“He also states that he stopped disseminating the fliers with the endorsement as soon as the mayor requested him to do so,” she wrote. “This statement appears to conflict with the text he (Jugovich) sent Ms. Scaia stating he was still waiting to hear from the mayor.”

The allegation will now be assigned to a three-judge panel for an evidentiary hearing and final determination.

Scaia said the judge’s ruling on probable cause validated her decision to file the complaint.

“I believed that I could not go forward, stay true to my principles of leadership based in integrity and transparency and not file the complaint,” she said.

Scaia stressed that these laws are in place to ensure Fair Campaign Practices.

“False claims of support are deceptive to voters,” she added. “ I believe that the state of Minnesota, through the Office of Administrative Hearings, will continue to process our complaint in a fair, timely and equitable manner.”