Chisago County Sheriff Resigns Amid Investigation Into ‘Bizarre’ Scheme

Minnesota – Rick Duncan had already announced his campaign for a third term as Chisago County sheriff when he resigned unexpectedly last month, citing medical issues.

But his decision to quit came only a day after he admitted to investigators that he had hatched a bizarre scheme involving him and a female sheriff’s office employee, according to documents released Friday by the Chisago County Attorney’s Office.

Duncan admitted that he wrote threatening letters last fall under the name “Control Freak” directing the employee to go with him to a training in Bemidji and stay overnight at a hotel together or risk harm to their families, the documents say. He directed the woman to refrain from telling her husband or reporting the matter to law enforcement or anyone else at Chisago County.

The woman ultimately refused to go and months later reported the ordeal to a supervisor, launching an investigation that the Chisago County attorney referred to an independent law firm.

The county attorney has referred the case to officials in Anoka County for review for criminal charges.

Duncan’s attorney, Marshall Tanick, said Friday that Duncan “was undergoing some health-related issues that led him to decide to retire. He is continuing to deal with those issues and appreciates the support that he has received from members of the community.”

Leslie Lienemann, an attorney for the woman targeted, said they will make decisions about any legal claims in the next couple of weeks.

In recent interviews with the Star Tribune, the woman described the toll that the stress of the ordeal took on her.

“From when it first began through the whole thing, my whole feeling was, this can’t be happening. This can’t be real,” said Michelle Jacobson, the target of the threats. “I’m still waiting for someone to say, ‘It was a joke. We punked you …’ It was so bizarre.”

Duncan grew up in Chisago County and spent more than 20 years as a Minneapolis police officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He returned to his home turf to run for sheriff in 2010 and was elected to a four-year term, winning re-election in 2014. With an annual salary of $123,000, he was the second-highest-paid county official.

Jacobson, a crime analyst in the sheriff’s office, had been working there for four years when Duncan called her into his office in late October. She said in an interview with the Star Tribune that she was stunned when he handed her a purported letter.

Jacobson said it spelled out detailed instructions for the two to attend a professional conference in Bemidji in mid-November. They were to book a single room with a king-size bed at the Country Inn & Suites and bring swimsuits and a deck of cards.

The letter laid out a precise route to follow, ordering the pair to travel in the same vehicle. It was one of six purported letters the sheriff told her he had received, Jacobson said.

“I don’t want to hurt your families so don’t make me do it,” one letter said. “I can assure you that if you carry this out without no one knowing your families will be safe and no one will know you did it but you two. If you carry this out, you will never hear from me again.”