ISD 196 prepares to sell voters on tax hike

    Following a multi-million-dollar spending spree on school construction, staff pay raises and bonuses, designer furniture, and a $6 million speculative land deal, Independent School District 196 administrators, citing figures from paid consultants, have launched a public relations campaign to increase property taxes.
   In a press release posted on the school district’s website, school district administrators claim “The majority of District 196 residents surveyed this spring said they would support a local property tax increase to avoid additional budget cuts and preserve the quality of educational opportunities offered by District 196 schools.”
   The assertion of majority approval was based on a survey of 625 district residents, according to the statement.
   The school district tested the waters for a $400 per student increase to the district’s operating levy. The district includes more than 28,000 students. District administrators estimated the cost at $200 per year for a $300,000 home.
   The district’s tactic appears similar to tactics used by the city of Eagan to defend its recent tax increase to build a new city municipal complex and give raises to city employees, isolating the cost of the increase to a single year and basing it on the value of a home far below what many homes sell for in the district.
   The school district typically holds its elections in off-years from city and presidential elections, when voter turnout is lower and results can be boosted by pro-teachers-union voters while the general electorate is away from the polls.
 According to the school district’s survey results, about one-quarter of the people surveyed strongly supported an operating levy increase, while 36 percent opposed it, strongly opposed it, or were unsure.
   The majority of people who responded to the school district’s survey, 56 percent, rated local schools as good, fair, or poor. Forty-two percent rated the quality of education in ISD 196 as excellent.

Appeals Court reverses sex crime conviction

   The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed an Eagan man’s criminal conviction based on allegations he illegally groped a woman at an Apple Valley bar and ordered a new trial, reasoning the prosecution did not provide his defense lawyer with exculpatory evidence.
   The Court of Appeals, in an opinion released May 20, reasoned the prosecution should have disclosed to Eagan resident Michael Derevitsky’s defense lawyer that the victim in the case was unable to identify the defendant in court.
   Derevitsky, 26, of 1245 Carlson Lake Lane, Eagan, was convicted of a gross misdemeanor fifth-degree unlawful sexual conduct charge in January 2018, according to court records. He was charged by Apple Valley police after a manager at Wild Bill’s bar flagged down a police officer on patrol shortly after 1:30 a.m. on July 2, 2017. The manager told police he had just ejected a man from the establishment after a female customer reported the man had groped her on his way to the men’s room.
   The victim reported the man, whom she did not know, grabbed her between the legs as she stood next to the Big Buck Hunter video game.

Appeals court affirms roller rink's harassment order

   Local schools have continued to take field trips to a local skating rink despite a court-issued restraining order arising from concerns about a man’s inappropriate contact with a teenage girl and a potential “deadly situation.”
   Elementary and middle schools in Eagan and surrounding towns have continued taking field trips to Skateville, a roller rink in Burnsville. In 2018, the owner of the rink obtained a restraining order against a 44-year-old man suspected of pursuing a 17-year-old girl who frequented the rink. In his petition for a restraining order, the rink’s owner, Jason McKenzie, described the alleged harassment writing, “He claims when he comes near the property, it can become a deadly situation.”
   The Dakota County district court granted a two-year restraining order, restricting the man from the rink. The order was upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals May 13.
   The rink is a popular field trip destination for schools in Eagan and other towns. Fifth-graders from several Eagan schools were scheduled to attend field trips at the rink after the concerns were disclosed in court documents. Parents whose children went on field trips to the rink were not informed of the allegations.
   According to court records, Skateville’s owner sought the restraining order after the mother of a 17-year-old girl sought a restraining order against the same man on behalf of her daughter. The family disclosed Facebook messages the girl received from the man, nearly 30 years her senior, suggesting they date.
   “I’m afraid of what he could do,” the teenager wrote to the court. “I’m afraid of him showing up at Skateville. He asked my friends to contact my family. His messages said he wants to have children with me and argued when I said no.”
   Dakota County District Court Judge Cynthia McCollum denied the request of the girl’s family for a restraining order last August. “Although some of the Respondent’s messages to [the teenage girl] are unpleasant, Respondent’s words and actions fail to rise to the level of harassment as defined by [the statute],” the court wrote.  

Hatchet-wielding, police-fleeing suspect charged in theft

Daniel McCarthy
    A man suspected of threatening a Target store clerk with a hatchet has been charged with four felonies related to thefts from Target stores, stealing a car, and fleeing a police officer who tried to arrest him at gunpoint.
   Daniel McCarthy, 28, whose permanent address was not disclosed by authorities, was charged, in two separate Dakota County criminal complaints, with felony threats of violence, theft, theft of a motor vehicle, and fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle.
   Police allege McCarthy entered the Target store in Eagan on Jan. 30 and stole more than $1,800 worth of merchandise, according to a criminal complaint. The merchandise included two fans, phones, a duffle bag and a self-propelling vacuum cleaner. As the suspect was leaving the store, according to the complaint, an employee noticed an inventory tracking device on the vacuum and asked McCarthy to wait.
   McCarthy alleged raised a hatchet he had brought with him to the store when the store clerk approached, the complaint said. The store clerk stopped and McCarthy left in a black Chevy, police alleged.
   Investigators discovered a vehicle fitting the description of the suspect’s black Chevy was involved in another theft from the Inver Grove Heights Target store later in the week, on Feb. 1, 2019. During the Feb. 1 store theft, according to the criminal complaint, a suspect entered the store, took a duffel bag and filled it with three web cameras and two laptop computers. The man allegedly walked out of the store without paying for the more than $1,000 worth of merchandise.
   The day after the Inver Grove Heights theft, an Inver Grove Heights police officer on patrol saw McCarthy, whom the officer suspected was wanted on active arrest warrants, at a gas station standing next to a black Chevy HHR allegedly fitting the description of the vehicle involved in the thefts. The police officer headed towards McCarthy with his gun drawn, according to the criminal complaint, and ordered McCarthy, who had since gotten into the car, out of the vehicle. Instead of complying with the armed police officer’s commands, investigators alleged, McCarthy drove off at “a high rate of speed.”
   Police then discovered the black Chevy had been reported stolen from St. Paul, according to court records. Police eventually found the car parked and empty. Investigators contacted the owner of the car, who gave police permission to search it.
   The owner reported her daughter had been driving the car a month earlier with McCarthy as a passenger. When her daughter went into a store, police allege, McCarthy “took off with the vehicle.”
   Inside the black Chevy, police reported finding “a number of items related to recent Target thefts.” Police also reported finding a backpack containing “washed” checks, checks converted to blank checks, from three local businesses.
   At a court appearance May 17, McCarthy was ordered to be held at the Dakota County jail pending payment of $30,000 bail, according to court records.                                                                                                                

Truck driver won't face felony charge in fatal crash

   Prosecutors do not have enough evidence to charge the truck driver involved in the August 2018 Cliff Road crash that led to the death of a 33-year-old Eagan mother of two young children with vehicular homicide, the Dakota County Attorney’s office has concluded.
   The decision makes it likely that, if charged with any crime, the truck driver, who police alleged at the time of the crash ran a red light and struck the woman’s vehicle, would face only misdemeanor traffic charges or, after review by the city attorney’s office, a gross misdemeanor charge.
   In a statement in response to an inquiry about the case, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said, “On January 11, 2019, the Eagan Police Department referred the above case to our office for charging consideration of the felony level offense of criminal vehicular homicide related to a crash that occurred on August 13, 2018, which tragically took the life of Alayna Tanaka, age 33 of Eagan.  After reviewing the evidence presented to our office, including a crash reconstruction report prepared by the Minnesota State Patrol dated January 2, 2019, our office has determined that there is not sufficient evidence to charge Todd Franklin with criminal vehicular homicide.”
   “In order to charge the offense of criminal vehicular homicide,” Backstrom continued, “we must be able to prove that at the time of the crash, Mr. Franklin was under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance; or that he operated his motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.  According to the police reports and the reconstruction report, Mr. Franklin was not under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substances at the time of the crash.  Accordingly, we would need to prove that Mr. Franklin operated his motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner which is defined to mean “with very great negligence or without even scant a care.”  In this case, there are not sufficient facts to establish gross negligence.  Because the case is still pending, our office is unable to fully discuss all the facts of the case at this time.”
   “The case has been referred to the Eagan City Attorney to review for charging consideration of any applicable gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor charges,” Backstrom said. 
   Ms. Tanaka died Oct. 18, more than two months after the car she was driving on Pilot Knob Road collided with a semi-tractor trailer truck driven by Todd Steven Franklin, 50, of Randolph about 11:30 a.m. at the intersection of Pilot Knob and Cliff Roads. Tanaka was seriously injured in the Aug. 13 crash and remained in a coma until her death.

Council approves theater redevelopment plan

EAGAN, MN – At its May 7 meeting, the Eagan City Council approved a proposal to convert the Cliff Road Regal Cinemas site, across from the Target store, to a smaller movie theater with alcohol service and ax throwing. The proposal was approved by the city’s Advisory Planning Commission April 23.
   The movie theater recently operated at the site, Regal Cinemas 16 is now closed, leaving a large vacant business and parking lot on one of the city’s major roadways, a stretch of Cliff Road that includes restaurants, a post office, grocery stores and connects to highways 35E and 77.
   The plan, submitted by the company that operates Emagine theaters, adds three more buildings to the 2055 Cliff Road site, including an as-yet-unnamed drive-thru restaurant. The plan will reduce the number of theater seats by 60 percent, but the new theater seats will be larger, more comfortable recliners. The new owner will also be removing the neon signs from the front of the building.
   In discussing the proposal, members of the Advisory Planning Commission said they thought the site was “a great area for redevelopment.”
   The city council’s discussion of the issue focused mostly on the history of easements and traffic flow at the site. The addition of ax-throwing to the entertainment venue was referenced only jokingly at the end of the city council discussion.
   “Why would you ever pass up an opportunity to talk about ax throwing?” City Council Member Paul Bakken asked. “It just boils down to the fact that I’m a relatively simple man with Scandanavian heritage and ax throwing, in general, kind of gets me a little bit excited. I’m not going to say that’s swaying my opinion about land entitlements, but it doesn’t hurt.”
   Representatives from Emagine responded to questions from the planning commission about parking at the site and safety concerns related to ax throwing. “It seems to me the mixing of alcohol with the throwing of hatchets is fraught with personal safety and medical risk,” said Commission Chair Jane Vanderpoel.
   The company said each ax-throwing lane will have an ax master trained in first aid to supervise the activity.