The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 25, 2013

New Ulm councilman accused of lying to security guards

Report: Les Schultz told off-duty officer that his 19-year-old guests were of drinking age

By Dan Linehan
The Mankato Free Press

---- — A New Ulm city councilor lied to security guards during a July festival about the ages of two 19-year-olds he was hosting, according to a report by the Marshall Police Department.

Les Schultz, who is also probation director for Brown County, was attending the Bavarian Blast with the German teenagers, who were staying with Schultz. The teenagers had blood-alcohol concentrations of .17 percent and .11 percent and were cited for underage consumption.

The report said there is no evidence that Schultz provided the wristbands that let them buy alcohol, but that he did tell security guards that they were 21 and 22.

“It would appear that this was done in an attempt to interfere with an investigation into minors consuming alcohol at the festival,” Marshall Detective Timothy Tomasek wrote in his Aug. 14 report.

New Ulm Police Chief Myron Wieland asked Tomasek to investigate the matter due to potential conflicts of interest because of Schultz’s positions with the county and the City Council. New Ulm paid the Marshall department $1,889.70 for the investigation.

The investigation was forwarded to Blue Earth County attorney’s office, which said in an Oct. 4 letter that Schultz’s actions “do not rise to the level of a crime that would be prosecuted by the County Attorney’s Office.”

In an emailed statement, Schultz said he was “disappointed that KEYC would run this story. The festival was filled with loud music, chatter and libations. What was said by whom and to whom is always a debatable topic. I strongly oppose underage drinking and have worked hard in my career to support policies on this concern.”

The story was first reported Wednesday by KEYC-TV.

Chatter, libations

Schultz and the German teenagers, Felix Marius Mehrens and Shearif Philippe Bydekarken, started off the afternoon of July 20 by selling “Germans have more fun” T-shirts as volunteers, according to the report.

Mehrens was an exchange student of Schultz’s in 2009, and Bydekarken was a friend of Mehrens’.

At about 7 p.m., the teenagers stopped by Schultz’s house then returned to the celebration. They both told the Marshall detective that they were allowed to buy a “21 and older” wristband despite not having IDs. In Germany, 16-year-olds can drink without their parents.

But none of the volunteers recalled the Germans coming to their gate, and all of them said they wouldn’t have sold such a wristband to someone without ID, according to the report.

One of the security guards, retired State Patrol trooper Kevin Guggisberg, heard from a bartender that two underage Germans were drinking and asked Schultz about it. Schultz told him that one of the Germans was 21 and the other had just turned 22.

Schultz then left quickly, and Guggisberg checked with the bartender, who said he was sure the Germans weren’t 21.

Guggisberg confronted Schultz, who “seemed put out” that his word was being questioned, according to the report. He insisted the Germans were old enough to drink.

The head of security, off-duty sheriff’s deputy Jason Fairbairn, told Schultz that if he would vouch for the boys there wouldn’t be any problems with security.

Schultz’s response — that the Germans weren’t drinking and driving or fighting — led Fairbairn to think the young men weren’t actually 21. As he walked away, Schultz told Fairbairn “I don’t understand what the big deal is. These guys are fine.”

The security guards set off to look for the Germans, who were found drunk and were eventually cited by police. They paid their $180 fee the next week.

When Fairbairn and Schultz spoke again that evening, the city councilor “looked intoxicated,” according to the report.

Fairbairn told the Marshall investigator that he still liked Schultz, and thought the incident only happened because alcohol had clouded Schultz’s judgment.

The investigator also interviewed Schultz, who didn’t allow the interview to be recorded, which was something he said he learned in “City Council 101.”

Schultz said the Germans got the “21 and older” wristbands on their own and that he doesn’t remember telling Guggisberg that the young men were 21 and 22. As for his conversation with Fairbairn, Schultz said he was merely vouching that they were “my Germans,” not that they were old enough to drink.

The investigation concludes that there is no evidence that Schultz bought the “21 and older” wristbands for the Germans. The wristbands, now in evidence with the New Ulm police department, have ID numbers that aren’t in order. There’s a gap of one number between their wristbands, but it’s not clear who bought the wristband in the middle.

In summary, the report says “it is not clear there is a strong case supporting allegations that Les Schultz committed any crime.” But it says there does appear to be a “possible ethical violation” due to Schultz’s positions with the City Council and Brown County.

There are no complaints or charges on file against Schultz, who has been probation director since 1993.