WINNEBAGO – A Winnebago events center is instructed to reimburse the Minnesota Attorney General for the costs of prosecuting the center’s alleged violation of the Pandemic Enforcement Order.
A judge at Faribault District Court awarded the state a default judgment after no event center representative appeared for virtual court hearings and failed to respond to inquiries for investigative documents.
The attorney general’s office filed a civil lawsuit to prevent the Carlson Event Center from hosting a New Year’s Eve event in 2020, while an ordinance banned most gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judge Troy Timmerman issued an injunction and the event did not take place. The judge later also issued an injunction in which he ordered the event center not to violate a later pandemic ordinance that restricted the size of the event.
The case continued even after those orders, with the center and owner Garth Carlson facing potential civil penalties.
The state has not received a response from the events center since April when its advance attorney pulled out of the case. No representative from the Center appeared at the hearings in June and Wednesday.
The center also failed to respond to the state’s requests for documents related to its claim that the New Year’s Eve party was a religious event exempt from the pandemic shutdown, even after Timmerman issued an order to do so.
“The state’s allegation that the defendant planned to violate the order of the executive branch is overwhelming, and the defendant has provided no evidence to the contrary despite numerous occasions,” student attorney Dan Suitor wrote recently on a file on behalf of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.
The state asked Timmerman to make a default judgment in their favor because the accused had failed to respond.
The attorney general attempted to settle the case by ordering the Carlson Event Center to pay attorney fees and all other related investigation costs.
“The state is refusing to pursue any other remedies sought in his lawsuit, other than attorney fees and costs,” Suitor wrote in his inquiry. “The court’s actions prohibiting the accused from having his ‘New Year’s Eve party’ or violating other public health and safety enforcement ordinances related to the COVID-19 pandemic have served the purpose of Implementing Ordinance 20-99: To avoid unnecessary diseases and prevent deaths from the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the community. “
Timmerman agreed to deliver a judgment in favor of the state during Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted less than five minutes.
The amount of the reimbursement has not yet been determined. The Public Prosecutor General will send the judge a requested amount at a later date.
Carlson was unavailable on Wednesday and has not responded to previous Free Press requests for comment. He opened the Carlson Event Center after buying the former Winnebago school building early last year.