Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Moorhead has hired a full legal staff to handle the city’s misdemeanor prosecutions staring Feb. 1.
City manager Chris Volkers introduced newly appointed prosecuting attorney Cheryl Duysen to the city council Monday. She told members, “Kudos to the city HR staff for getting this done! I’ve never seen hiring of this calibre done at such speed and so efficiently.”
In addition to Duysen, the new staff includes two more attorneys, Steve Beitelspacher and Alex Stock; paralegal Erin Fildes; and legal secretary and victim services advocate Lacy Johnson. All five previously worked for the Clay County attorney’s office – Duysen and Stock as assistant county attorneys and Beitelspacher as chief assistant for the civil department.
The city scrambled to find accommodations for the new department after the Clay County Commission denied their original proposal to locate the staff in the Moorhead Police Department area of the Joint Law Enforcement Center. Though the city proposed using unoccupied offices in the area for which it already pays rent for the police, commissioners and then-Sheriff-Elect Mark Empting cited unspecified future space needs, safety issues and “other concerns” in turning down the request. They also said no space was available in the county courthouse.
Instead, offices have been shuffled in the already crowded City Hall downtown. One consequence: Mayor Johnathan Judd gave up his own office to accommodate the reassignments.
In the past, the Clay County attorney has provided prosecutorial services for low-level offenses under contract with the city. When the recent five-year contract was set to end, the county proposed a substantial increase in the fees paid by the city and four other Clay County cities that have worked through Moorhead. Negotiations to reach an acceptable price for extending the contract were not fruitful. Since November, Volkers and City Attorney John Shockley have been working on the alternate plan for the city to take on its own misdemeanor legal work.
New city prosecutors ready to go Feb. 1