Freedom to Trespass (Part I)
If you think trespassing is illegal, think again. In Carlton County, if you are a building inspector or fire chief, you get a free pass to trespass under the guise of immunity. In 2010, I filed trespassing charges against former building inspector John Gulland and current fire chief, Jeffrey Juntunen of Thomson Township for their illegal entry into my privately owned building.
Any entry, particularly on a non-emergency basis, must be with the consent of the owners. If an inspection request is refused, the building inspector or fire chief must obtain an administrative warrant. In its absence, no inspection is to take place. In our case, consent was not sought, not granted, and no warrant served. Warrants are granted for reasonable cause and restrict authorities to specific areas. This protects the property owner from witch-hunts and illegal entry.
Trespassing charges were filed against Mr. Juntunen and Mr. Gulland with local officer Tom Foldesi on June 24, 2010. Ultimately, these charges ended up with Carlton County Attorney Thomas Pertler who delayed any action before having a sham investigation performed by Fond du Lac investigator Russell Rule.
Mr. Pertler told me that he would not pursue the charges until the closing of the associated lawsuit. Mr. Pertler said, “I’m not going to do anything to benefit your case,” to which I said, “You are benefiting theirs by doing nothing.” No one was asking for prejudicial treatment, but only a fair and justified investigation, and charges if warranted.
After the civil case closed a year later, I asked again about the trespassing investigation. Mr. Pertler said he had misplaced the papers and forgotten about it.
These cases begin when two contractors reported finding Fire Chief Juntunen inside the locked building upon their arrival on or about September 5, 2008. On yet another day, he entered the locked building while they were working. They said he did not introduce himself and simply wandered around. They saw he was wearing a uniform and guessed he was a firefighter. A letter dated September 5, 2008, from Thomson Township attorney David Pritchett was the first time I learned the trespasser was Jeffrey Juntunen, Thomson Township Fire Chief. Based on his entries, Mr. Juntunen alleged fire code violations. Pritchett's letter said, “There are large piles of demolition materials both within and outside the building, in violation of state fire code.” Interestingly, the letter cited no specific fire code, nor ever produced upon my request. It also did not say by what legal authority Mr. Juntunen made entry.
“No Trespassing” signs did nothing to deter either man. Trespassing occurs when one knowingly goes onto the property without permission. Knowledge may be inferred when the owner tells the trespasser not to go on the land or when a "no trespassing" sign is posted.
Mr. Juntunen committed trespass pursuant to Minn. Rules 229F.08 and 299F.09 as well as Minn. Stat. 541.05 Subd. 1 (3).
The contractors said the doors were locked, so how did Juntunen gain entry. Thomson Township had no key policy and did not know who had keys to the Old Washington School. As there were still old doors in place from the time Thomson Township owned the building, it is likely they used a key they had retained.
Like Juntunen, John Gulland entered the premises illegally on February 15, 2007 and later based a “Stop Work Order” on this trespass. On August 1, 2008, Gulland tagged along with Thomson Township Plumbing Inspector Paul Sandstrom on a plumbing inspection, without seeking consent of owners. Gulland’s presence was unwarranted. It was simply one friend helping another in his endless pursuit to derail the project. In March of 2009, John Gulland was found inside the locked building when Marvin Pirila, Gail Francette, and Nick Perfetti arrived for a scheduled inspection. Mr. Gulland refused to say how he managed to get through the locked doors when confronted separately by Mr. Pirila and Ms. Francette. Just 20 minutes before the inspection, Mr. Perfetti found the doors locked. He left and returned at the same time as Ms. Francette. If the door had been unlocked, it would have remained unlocked for us to walk through without unlocking.
In the spring of 2009, Mr. Gulland began making unauthorized, unrequested weekly inspections. This occurred three times before the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry investigator Barry Greive instructed him to halt to this practice. Mr. Gulland claimed that the architect invited him to attend, but after Mr. Pirila contacted the architect and disinvited him (architect), Mr. Gulland was obligated to stop. He did not until Mr. Greive intervened.
By definition, criminal trespass is the instance of willfully entering any property (enclosed or open) when the property owner has explicitly told the individual they are not welcome on the property. Mr. Gulland violated Minn. Rule 1300.0110 Subp. 7, Right of entry. Likewise, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids unreasonable search and seizures. Seizures do not have to take place for the search to be illegal. [Next week – Part II: The Sham Investigation]
Part II: The Sham Investigation into Trespassing by Fire Chief Juntunen
(Continued from last weeks “Freedom to Trespass”) The trespassing complaint against Juntunen started prejudicially when Thomson Township Officer Tom Foldesi withdrew because he was uncomfortable interviewing Jeffrey Juntunen and John Gulland. Foldesi, who had taken the complaint on 6/24/10, passed it on to Mr. Pertler on 7/2/10. Mr. Pertler showed his bias by refusing to investigate during the pending lawsuit against these individuals and Thomson Township. Carlton County Attoryney Thom Pertler's office sat on it until September of 2011 (15 months) before passing it on again to Officer Russell Rule of Fond du Lac.
Attorney Dennis Genereau Jr. was one of the first attorneys from Carlton County to review the complaint and said it warranted an investigation. He interpreted the incidents as trespass, but passed it onto Pertler after taking a position in Human Resources.
Pertler’s office wasted a year making excuses, before assigning the case to Fond Du Lac police officer Russell Rule. His job was to interview the witnesses in the complaint and make his report to the Carlton County Attorney's Office. Mr. Rule did not take the matter seriously, rescheduling the first meeting with Mr. Pirila before failing to show to the second meeting. Not only did he skip interviewing both complainants, he failed to interview the two contractors and Mr. Perfetti who witnessed the trespasses. The only individuals he did talk too were the two trespassers, Juntunen and Gulland.
On September 25, 2012, Mr. Pirila received notice from County Attorney Jesse Berglund that they were dismissing the case. Mr. Pirila discussed the dismissal via phone on September 26, 2012 with both Mr. Berglund and Todd Milosevich (Victim/Witness Services). He then sent a letter to Mr. Berglund on 9/27/12. “I would like you to explain in writing what took 27 months and what investigation of any kind took place…You said that because this was a misdemeanor charge, you didn’t want to pursue it, particularly before a jury…Who could possibly argue with the intent of someone making illegal entry to their home?...”
The facts show that this was a sham investigation and review. First, Officer Rule’s report states, “It was found out that Chief Foldesi made attempts to receive statements from Jeffrey Juntunen and John Gulland and ultimately did not receive any statement at the time because of the Law Suite [sic].” The lawsuit did not preclude an investigation into trespassing. If Gulland and Juntunen did not want to comment, that should have been the record. The case should then have rested on the other facts and testimony. Instead, Foldesi, Pertler, Berglund, and Rule delayed a timely investigation. There also was no mention of attempted interviews of the five witnesses. Since when does a thorough investigation neglect to interview those claiming the trespass? This shows a purposeful delay to hinder the lawsuit against Thomson Township. Second, the August 17, 2011, letter from Pertler to Foldesi specifically requested that Mark Blomquist, Jake Fjeld, Marvin Pirila, and Gail Francette be interviewed. This did not happen. Pertler’s letter also asked that all records of inspections be obtained. There was no proof that any such attempt to obtain occurred. If it had, the record would have shown that no records, as required, were in Thomson Township files. Third, Foldesi’s narrative stated, “[Juntunen entered]…The old Washington School as he had seen a large pile of old latch and plaster next to the building. He [Juntunen] went into the building as contractors were working with machinery going. He advised the contractors and then left the building. At the time Juntunen stated the doors were not locked and would have knocked but did not think the workers would have heard him.” Rather than try to knock, Mr. Juntunen admittedly let himself in.
The third claim contrasts with the contractor’s immediate report. Contractors Mark Blomquist and Jake Fjeld witnessed Juntunen on two different days inside the building. On one of these days, Mr. Juntunen, was inside the locked building when they arrived. If the building was locked and he was already inside, how did he get in? These were the old school doors with the glass window and push bar lock. To keep it unlocked you have to use an Allen Wrench. If the door was locked when the contractors arrived, it was locked and Mr. Juntunen let himself in. On the second entry, Juntunen again entered the locked building. The contractors said that Mr. Juntunen did not identify himself. He neither had the consent of owners, nor requested it. There was also no notice of his visit either by phone or in writing. The first official notice of Mr. Juntunen’s illegal entry came via a September 5, 2008, letter from Thomson Township attorney David Pritchett citing alleged fire code violations. The slats slowly accumulated outside and in no way necessitated an immediate, illegal entry into private property. Curtilage rights did not apply. If Mr. Juntunen wanted to act responsibly, he would have attempted to contact the owners prior to trespassing. Continued next week (Part III: The Sham Investigation into Trespassing by Fire Chief Juntunen).
Part III: The Sham Investigation into Trespassing by Fire Chief Juntunen (Continued)
[Officer Russ Rule investigates trespassing complaint] Officer Rule's report claimed, “It is believed that Juntunen was doing his job as a Fire Chief protecting property from a possible disaster or fire.”
A cursory review of the law shows that as fire chief or fire marshal, Mr. Juntunen is subject to the rules of entry pursuant to Minnesota Statute 299F.09. This statute specifically states, “The …chief of the fire department of each city where a fire department is established … at all reasonable hours may enter into all buildings and upon all premises within their jurisdiction for the purpose of examination, after proper consent from the occupant or owner or pursuant to an administrative search warrant. Mr. Juntunen readily admits he had no consent and no evidence of an administrative search warrant. Without either, this is clearly illegal entry.
In his taped statement to Officer Rule Jeffrey Juntunen stated, “…my concern when I stopped at the property was they were taking lath from the old lath and plaster and throwing it out a window. And it was piled all the way up to the second floor right against the building and as fire chief my concern was anybody could have light [sic] that on fire and ah, we could have had fire throughout or in the building it would have entered the windows so I stopped there to try and find Mr. Pirila the doors were open and they were not locked and I went inside and all I could find at the that time was contractors who were working in the building, Mr. Pirila was not present so I did tell one of the contractors ah, why I was on sight and asked em if they would relay that to Mr. Pirila.” The contractors said that Mr. Juntunen relayed no messages. Given the months that it took the lath to pile up, Mr. Juntunen could easily have arranged to tour the building to discuss the situation. Instead, he chose to pick a time when two contractors were there, and another time when there were no cars in either parking lot. These lots hold up to 60 vehicles and they were empty. Did he really have a reasonable expectation of finding me in a known empty building?
Officer Russ Rule asks, “…But as a fire chief do you have the right to go into a building?” to which Jeffrey Juntunen responds, “Ah, when the doors are open you know.” This is clear admission that he violated the rules of entry pursuant to Minn. Stat. 299F.09. There is no provision under the law allowing entry given the circumstances. Mr. Juntunen tries to justify his position, “A situation like that I guess it’s no different than any other building ah, you know knocking on the door and asking for permission ah, wasn’t you know, wasn’t an option because contractors were running power tools and, the building was very large.” Mr. Juntunen is suggesting that if knocking and requesting permission is not possible (or not convenient), he possesses the authority to enter private property. This would mean that every unlocked door in the community is legally permissible to enter if no one answers to knocking. In this particular case, he admits that knocking was not an option so he just took it upon himself to enter. He made this choice knowing he never attempted to call the owners, never tried writing a letter, never tried leaving a note, etc. This was a deliberate action with the full knowledge of entry procedures.
This building is an old school building with thick-bricked walls. The thought that you would hear any of the small power tools inside is highly unlikely. Why create fiction when the so-called investigator, local officer, and County Attorney are in your pocket?
Fire Chief Jeffrey Juntunen failed to keep mandated records of inspections, and for good reason, they were not authorized. Minnesota Statute § 504B.211 (1.2) prohibits property owners and officials charged in the enforcement of health, housing, building, fire, or housing maintenance codes from entering a residential tenant dwelling without first giving the tenant reasonable notice under the circumstances of the intent to enter.
Since when did officers rely on the accused to interpret the law for them? Many criminals would like to provide their interpretation of the law to avoid fines, court, and possible jail time. This was not an investigation as much as it was a game of smoke and mirrors. Next week: Part IV: The Sham Investigation into Trespassing by the Building Inspector.
Part IV: The Sham Investigation into Trespassing by the Building Inspector
In his taped statement to Officer Rule Mr. Gulland stated, “…as far as a specific date or whatever you know I don’t have any other records or whatever that was, to you know to just answer you totally honestly.” If Mr. Gulland had been on an authorized inspection there would have been an inspection log on site and in the Thomson Township files, but there were none.
Officer Rule asked, “…did you have permission to go there or is it for inspection do you need permission to go in there?” Building Inspector John Gulland replied, “Well um when you have an open building permit ah building inspector is allowed to go there and make inspections…” Well, umm, if can just make your own way in, why not huh.
Mr. Gulland was obligated to follow Subp. 7, Right of entry, under Minn. R. 1300.0110 regarding entry procedures which states, “If it is necessary to make an inspection to enforce the code or if the building official has reasonable cause to believe that there exists in a structure or upon a premises a condition contrary to or in violation of the code that makes the structure or premises unsafe, dangerous, or hazardous, the building official or designee may enter the structure or premises at reasonable times to inspect or to perform the duties imposed by the code, provided that if the structure or premises is occupied, credentials must be presented to the occupant and entry requested. If the structure or premises is unoccupied, the building official shall first make a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person having charge or control of the structure or premises and request entry. If entry is refused, the building official shall have recourse to the remedies provided by law to secure entry.” Mr. Gulland made no request that was denied and therefore, had no reason to seek an administrative warrant. He skipped all of the procedures in favor of trespassing.
Mr. Gulland had admitted to being a construction inspector for 25 years and should have had knowledge of proper entry procedures. If Mr. Gulland felt limited in his capacity to infringe upon our private property rights, he would have followed his ministerial (mandated responsibilities such as inspection records) and operational level (day-to-day) duties. There was not a single entry on the on-site inspection card, and just one record of an inspection kept at Thomson Township (that being the one of the plumbing inspector). The long delays in granting permits led to an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (MN DOLI). They concluded John Gulland failed numerous requirements under the building code and censured him.
In Officer Russ Rule’s taped statement with John Gulland Officer he (Rule) commented, "Yeah, yeah well (AI) it sounded like nobody wanted to give statements until the law suit was finished" Gulland replied, "Well I think that's, I think kinda what we were instructed to do and that's why I kinda wanted to just make sure that I wasn't making a mistake and I'm not trying to..." Instructed by whom? Collusion and obstruction of justice was the obvious agenda of so many players.
It was highly unethical, unprofessional, and unwarranted of the Carlton County Attorney's office to simply wait out the lawsuit; this is undeniable an illegal suppression of evidence that was pertinent to the lawsuit and clearly prejudicial.
Mr. Gulland's attorney argued in court, "...there was no reasonable expectation of privacy [because the building was not occupied]." This is not true as "curtilage" rights did not apply, nor was there reason for entry without prior consent. It makes one wonder exactly how many times Mr. Gulland and Mr. Juntunen "let" themselves in rather than seek the proper consent. When you have immunity, the township will back your foul play, and the County is blind to justice, what stands in the way of "criminal behavior?" (Next week: Part V – The District Court Plays its Ugly Role)
Part V - The District Court Plays its Ugly Role
The ultimate slap in the face of justice came from Judge Dale A. Wolf himself, who during the course of the hearing for Summary Judgment defined trespassing in the context of a sexual assault. You will not find that in the Minnesota laws. Keeping true to form, Carlton County judges simply make the laws as they go along. The hearing itself was a joke and treated as one by the defendants. Thomson Township attorney Pritchett sat back a few rows from the front, laughing and chatting throughout. The joke was on us. A lame defense based on immunity was all they used to dismiss the case. Judge Wolf had already decided to kill the case before a jury could rightfully decide. All you need by law is one genuine question as to material fact to defeat summary judgment and we had presented numerous. If we were not acting Pro Se (self-represented), they would not have simply played us for fools. The secret handshakes and backslapping were obvious. Nothing would have convinced Judge Wolf to move forward. He should have recused himself for bias and sent our case onto St. Louis County.
The counsel for the township argued immunity as its sole defense. "Immunity provides protection to a public official from even the existence of a lawsuit, let alone liability." "Statutory immunity...provides immunity to a person, a public official performing discretionary functions." "...official immunity is another doctrine which provides immunity to public officials performing discretionary duties." "...qualified immunity is the doctrine that protects that public official from constitutional claims, so long as that official has not violated a clearly established constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known."
The court neglected to account for the ministerial (mandated) or operational (day-to-day) duties that were violated. Neither one is discretionary nor protected by immunity. The court refused to weigh the "censuring" of building inspector John Gulland by the MN Department of Labor & Industry. The court also refused to consider that trespassing was an intentional tort. Surely, the long employments of Gulland and Juntunen would suggest they knew the basic rules of entry.
Mr. Pirila submitted several defenses against the claims of immunity pursuant to Minnesota Rules and Statutes that should have defeated their defense. Unfortunately, the court was only interested in case history that supports immunity, rather than the statutes that cite its limitations. The letter of the law has given way, repeatedly, to legislation from the bench. Legislators are well aware of the problem but are only concerned with introducing new legislation rather than seeing those already in place enforced. What good are new laws if we ignore the old ones? Moreover, who oversees the judicial system?
The court had Fire Chief Jeffrey Juntunen's admission to entering without consent via Interrogatory #22. They also had Juntunen's Admission # 46 that answered, “Admit Jeffrey Juntunen entered Plaintiffs' property to enforce fire code regarding large pile of debris.” You would think these confessions made trespassing obvious, but the court argued that their right to immunity covered "entry without consent". The "large pile of debris" was outside, so how does that translate to illegal entry to a building?
Judge Wolf, addressing trespassing, "Usually the immunity applies, so long as they're acting under the color of their official capacity. An example of when it would end, let's assume that this building inspector was there off and on...and let's assume that one night he had been out on his own and after a meal decided to go up there and saw this young lady inside and so he invited himself in and explained that he knows this place well, et cetera, and he ends up sexually abusing her and now he is being sued, both criminally and/or civilly, and he said, well, I have immunity. Well, he's not really acting in his capacity as the building inspector and so immunity does have its limits. But the main thing you've got to start with is showing that they are doing something so outrageous or something so unusual that they really don't have that immunity."
The limits Judge Wolf suggested were not the statutory limits specified by law. A building inspector would not cry "immunity" in cases of sexual assault because as he [Wolf] explained he would be off duty acting as a private citizen. Of course, immunity would not apply.
When pressed by Mr. Pirila that these entries were without consent, Judge Wolf responded, "...they do look around the building, but they didn't during certain times that you may or may not have been there." The point is that they cannot make entry without consent, but this was not in the realm of thinking by Wolf who feels building inspectors and fire chiefs can do pretty much anything, except sexually assault someone outside of regular hours. Absurd.
The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the ``right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures....'' (5) As earlier noted, this protection extends to the area surrounding a residence that is known as curtilage.
The case, Susla v. State, ruled that official immunity does not apply to ministerial and operational duties. Willfulness or malice overcomes official immunity. State by Beaulieu v. City of Moundsview. Nothing precludes personal liability for instances where good faith is absent and malice is established. Minn. Rule 1300.0110, Subp. 9. Limited by several enumerated exceptions, "every muniicpality is subject to liability for its torts and those of its officers, employees, and agents acting within the scope of their employment or duties whether arising out of a government or proprietary function." Minn. Stat. § 466.02 (2008). Numerous exceptions to immunity were argued and dismissed by the court.
The evidence was in favor of a judgment of trespassing but Carlton County refused to do its duty or pass it along to a court that would. There is nothing worse than arguing against the defense and their ally in the court. (Next Week: Part V: Conclusion - Bias of the Carlton County Attorney's Office)
Conclusion: The Bias of the Carlton County Attorney’s Office
On September 24, 2012, I wrote Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler asking him to acknowledge his bias and remand the trespassing case to another party.
“We request you transfer responsibility for the trespassing charges and prosecution onto another county. You have shown prejudice, bias, and a perceived conflict of interest with respect to ex-building inspector John Gulland and Fire Chief Jeff Juntunen.
After I filed trespassing charges in June of 2009, I followed up with you on several occasions. As we had a pending lawsuit against Thomson Township and the individuals mentioned herein, you said you would not investigate until the case closed. You knowingly refused to perform your duties because you thought it might help us in our case. This is both ethically and professionally wrong. Whether or not the trespassing charges helped our case or not were irrelevant.
The duties of a county attorney under Minn. Stat. § 388.051 include Subd. 1: The county attorney shall :…(c) prosecute…to the extent prescribed by law, gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors, petty misdemeanors, and violations of municipal ordinances, charter provisions and rules or regulations.
You positioned yourself and Carlton County against us by doing nothing and making this a “political stand.” You essentially aided the defense of Thomson Township, Fire Chief Jeffrey Juntunen, and Building Inspector John Gulland by failing to do your required duties. We interpret this as you siding with these individuals and a presumed conflict of interest.
In June 2009, Marvin Pirila filed trespassing charges against two Thomson Township individuals with the Carlton County office. As of March 13, 2012, not a single thing has been done.
After countless emails, letters, and phone calls, we have lost all faith in your office to handle this matter responsibly. As you said regarding your alcohol incident at Fond Du Lac, “…the bottom line is that if something is up, and you know that I’m the person at the helm, I’m going to take responsibility, or take credit, if credit is due.” The credit for failing to take timely action on these trespass charges is squarely yours to accept. The right thing would be to pass this matter on to another county.
We ask that you reassign this matter to someone outside of Carlton County who will uphold the laws, rules, and statutes of this state, regardless of the individuals and parties involved. Ask yourself what one is supposed to believe when the County Attorney fails to do his job.
Please advise as to what your office will do, and what you would have us do, to see that justice is done as far as trespassing charges go. You are an appointed individual by the public, not special interest groups, and individuals. How can anyone possibly feel that you and your office is fair and just with all individuals in Carlton County, and not turn a blind eye to those that work for Carlton County.”
Pertler acknowledged the applicable law in his August 17, 2011, letter to Foldesi. “By law, I believe they [Inspector and Fire Chief] are required to maintain a record of each visit/inspection regarding the date, nature, and result of the visit/inspection."
These required records do not exist and exemplify the illegitimate entry of Gulland and Juntunen. Unfortunately, the Carlton County Attorney’s office feels it time should not be wasted pursuing trespassing complaints, particularly those involving local government.
Rather than a change in venue, Pertler offered more smoke and mirrors, the trademark response from Carlton County. Is there any wonder that so many call it “Cartoon County”? It would be a legitimate and complete circus with a unicycle and trapeze. There is already an overabundance of clowns. If you find justice there, consider your self infinitely lucky.
In the end, the trespassing complaint was dismissed to save members of the "Carlton County Country Club" from prosecution. We simply can't have our local government officials held responsible for their actions. Responsibility, as imposed by Pertler and associates, is simply for the private citizens of the county. The true test of the people will be when this "politician" acting as a county attorney is up for election. Will the citizens again choose to keep a person with such a tarnished reputation, weak appetite for justice, and pursuit of selfish interests?