Pertler released following DWI arrestCarlton County Attorney Thom Pertler is scheduled to make an appearance in St. Louis County Court at 11 a.m. Thursday morning after
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler is scheduled to make an appearance in St. Louis County Court at 11 a.m. Thursday morning after being arrested Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of drunken driving.
Pertler, 47, of Cloquet was held overnight in the St. Louis County Jail on charges of refusing to submit to a chemical test of his blood, breath or urine, which is a gross misdemeanor, and fourth-degree driving while impaired, a misdemeanor. According to the office of Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson, Pertler was released by Judge Heather Sweetland at 1:14 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. A spokesperson from the St. Louis County Jail said Pertler posted the $3,000 bail through a bondsman. A complaint was scheduled to be filed against Pertler, possibly by the end of the day Wednesday.
Pertler was pulled over as he entered Duluth on state Highway 61 after authorities received reports of a possible drunken driver, according to state and county law enforcement officials.
“I can tell you that we received a couple of driving complaints on him,” State Patrol Sgt. Curt Mowers said at 2:30 p.m. “A trooper found him and stopped him based on the driver’s conduct. … He was arrested.”
Mowers said the traffic stop was made at 12:30 p.m. on Highway 61 in St. Louis County. St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman said a member of his office told him Pertler was southbound on Highway 61 when someone in the Knife River area reported he was driving erratically. He said the traffic stop was made at 61st Avenue East in Duluth near the Lester River.
In the wake of the pending charges, Carlton County Commissioner Dick Brenner said the board made the decision to authorize County Coordinator Dennis Genereau to field all inquiries regarding Pertler’s status and to research the statutes pertaining to the board’s authority over elected county officials.
“Until we know the nature and extent of any possible charges,” said Brenner, “we don’t plan to take any action. We are simply positioning ourselves so we know what to do if and when that should become necessary.”
On Wednesday, Genereau indicated that he has been researching Minnesota Statute 351, which indicates options governing the actions of public officials.
“We’re simply looking to get a better understanding of what steps we’re obligated or able to take should any action become necessary,” said Genereau.
He indicated that in Pertler’s absence, even if it’s just temporary, the Carlton County Attorney’s office remains in good hands.
“There is no chief deputy in that department,” said Genereau, “but I am confident that the department has made plans so business can continue to get done. If they need any help from the Human Resources standpoint, the county will certainly be willing to help.”
In February, Pertler resigned his position as an adjunct instructor at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (FDLTCC), reportedly because he said he was embarrassed by his inability to communicate with students when he came to class after drinking at a bar with a childhood friend.
Pertler told the Duluth News Tribune he believed his flawed ability to think that night was exacerbated by the pain medication he was taking for an injured shoulder. He said he didn’t have a drinking problem and has never sought chemical dependency counseling.
Pertler joined the Carlton County Attorney’s Office in 1995 and has been the county attorney since 2005. He was one of the attorneys involved in prosecuting the murderers of Paul Antonich and Katie Poirier.
He was an instructor at FDLTCC from 2000 until Feb. 27. He said a childhood friend from the Twin Cities called him that day and said he was traveling to Duluth on business and they should get together. Pertler said he and the friend went to a local bar about 4:30 p.m. that day – the Carlton County Courthouse closes at 4 p.m. – and shared two pitchers of beer in about 70 minutes before he drove to the college to address 38 to 40 law enforcement students in a class on Minnesota statutes.
On Feb. 27, he said he phoned a school official and retired Duluth Police Chief Scott Lyons, head of the law enforcement program at the tribal college, and told them of his decision to resign.