Former WSP council member acquitted

A former West St. Paul City Council member was acquitted last week after being tried on multiple counts of disorderly conduct, including misconduct of a public official.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that Edward Everett Hansen, age 43 of West St. Paul, was acquitted of one count of misconduct of a public official (a gross misdemeanor), one count of disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor) and an additional count of disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor).

Regarding the acquittal, Backstrom said, “As with any criminal case, the available evidence is presented to a jury who must conclude whether proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the elements of the crime exists.

“In this matter, the jury concluded we had not met this high burden of proof.”            

Conflicts of interest?

In January of 2011 the West St. Paul City Council voted to develop a blighted property next door to Hansen’s residence. Hansen was the sole dissenting voter against the project. The project was a joint effort of the city’s Economic Development Authority and a developer.

According to West St. Paul police reports, on November 23, 2011 a general contractor working on the site said he was approached by Hansen, who used aggressive language and said he would not allow the house to be built. The report said the contractor left the property to avoid further confrontation.            

When a listing agent showed the property to a potential buyer in June of last year, Hansen reportedly entered the house uninvited and confronted them. When Hansen discovered the house would be used as rental property, he allegedly said he was on the West St. Paul City Council and he would “make sure they would never get a rental permit.” Although he reportedly left the house and property, he left his car in the driveway of the listed property.                                                       

When another agent was showing the property to his client a few weeks later, a vehicle was reportedly again blocking the driveway and “No Trespassing” signs had been posted. As the agent and his clients approached the property, a sensor apparently triggered an electronic voice recording that announced they were trespassing.

And, earlier that spring, Hansen had draped a Confederate flag over a deck railing of his home, sparking a brief flurry of local media attention before he removed it.

Hansen resigns

In a July 2012 council meeting, City Council members told Hansen they thought he had damaged the council’s reputation and brought notoriety to the city. They were particularly concerned about his membership on the city’s Economic Development Authority, arguing that it could be perceived he used “inside information” on the development to try to block it; at one point, the developer said Hansen tried to buy the property for $10,000 above the asking price the developer had paid.

When they asked for his resignation, he refused, countering that they should resign and the city attorney who advised them should be fired.

“If I decide to resign, it’s going to be of my own free will,” Hansen told the rest of council. “I’m not going to be bullied into it. And I’ve done nothing wrong.”

He eventually resigned in Dec. 2012 and left the council in Jan. 2013. According to West St. Paul Mayor John Zanmiller, Hansen said he resigned so he could concentrate on his business.

Of the acquittal, Zanmiller said, “Mr. Hansen is a private citizen. He’s been afforded the opportunity to be judged by his peers and I wish him the best in the future.”

 

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