When Big Lake Police Chief Joel Scharf resigned in April, he publicly cited post-traumatic stress disorder, but around the same time 5 INVESTIGATES learned that Scharf was under investigation. criminal by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Scharf has not been charged with a crime, but one of his closest colleagues told officers that the investigation was the real reason Scharf quit his job, according to police investigation records. BCA.
Late last year, records show the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office was investigating what deputies called ‘a political smear campaign’ – the creation of an anonymous website and the sending of postcards disparaging Ken Halverson, who was running for Big Lake City Council.
When the evidence began to point to Scharf, the case was handed over to the BCA.
“People want to know who did this,” Halverson told officers in a taped interview last year. “They want whoever did this prosecuted because that’s not how our community works and it shouldn’t be tolerated.”
While Halverson, a former firefighter, and Scharf did not deny a history of tension between the two, the police chief initially denied any involvement in the creation of the website and the postcards, which read “don’t Don’t let Kenny burn our town down!”
“I sit in a position where I work at the will of the board and I’m certainly smart enough to stay out of the role of an election, I can tell you that,” Scharf told agents in January.
But when investigators told Scharf they had traced the website’s IP address to his home and the payments for the website to his credit card and phone number, the chief called a halt. the interview.
“So you’re accusing me of doing all this right now?” Scharf asked a BCA agent. “I think right now I don’t want to discuss it anymore.”
Scharf took sick leave days after that interview and resigned months later, citing PTSD.
The Isanti County District Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the BCA investigation, declined to charge Scharf with violating state campaign laws, saying he could not prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt.
Scharf did not respond to email and phone calls seeking comment from 5 INVESTIGATES. His profile on the social media platform, LinkedIn, says he is now a security manager for a private company in Arizona.
But before Scharf left Big Lake Police and Minnesota State, the BCA also interviewed Matt Hayen, the chief’s second-in-command, who told officers the chief spoke to him shortly after he was confronted with the evidence against him.
“The boss called me into his office afterwards and just said that…the IP address they had went to his house…and the boss told me he was going to have to retire because of it,” Hayen told BCA officers in a taped interview. in February.
“I took it like…there’s something he wants to get away from,” Hayen said. “From which he wants to flee.”
Big Lake City Council members named Hayen as the city’s new police chief in July. 5 INVESTIGATES reported Monday that Hayen has been placed on leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Neither Hayen nor the city has commented on the nature of the allegations against him and there is no indication that they are related to the BCA’s investigation of Joel Scharf.
Clay Wilfahrt, administrator for the town of Big Lake, declined interview requests but sent a statement via email Friday afternoon.
“City policy is to allow the criminal investigation to complete before conducting an internal investigation,” Wilfahrt wrote. “In this case, the criminal investigation ended after Chief Scharf resigned as police chief, so no internal investigation took place.”
Ken Halverson, who was eventually elected to the board, declined to comment.