For the Record: Sheriff’s response sheds light on resources requested for private events

For the Record is part of a series of informational articles aimed at helping clarify some of the hot-topic issues currently facing the area.  

In this issue, we hear from Winneshiek County Sheriff Dan Marx, whose response defines the stance of the Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office regarding a recent event that traveled through the county. The following is from Sheriff Marx.

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The following is in response to numerous accusations and attacks that WMT radio has been waging against me and my office on multiple media and social media platforms. 

WMT Radio out of Cedar Rapids sponsors and hosts an annual “Tractorcade” event. WMT (branch of iHeart Media Incorporated out of New York, NY) is a large private for-profit business. The $150 entry fee plus additional costs, that go directly to the coffers of WMT/iHeart Media is charged to each participant wishing to participate. Furthermore, there are multiple businesses and corporations that sponsor the event and that WMT profits from. WMT has been sponsoring this event for many years. During this time, they have successfully been able to get publicly-funded law enforcement agencies to go along with providing private security functions, such as shutting down highways and busy intersections to motorists, for their private event and subsequent personal profit.  

I respect the decisions that other agencies make. Every situation is unique and needs to be vetted as such. However, I am responsible and accountable to the taxpayers of Winneshiek County, and every decision is made with this in mind. Therefore, WMT has become quite upset with me and my office for not being willing to commit thousands of our citizen’s hard earned tax dollars to shutting down multiple roadways and intersections for hours on end (4 hours), thus making our motorists late for work, meetings and doctor’s appointments on the taxpayer’s dime. If we were to start committing multiple deputies (which would require paying out a significant amount of overtime) to every run/walk, ATV/UTV, horse, classic car, motorcycle, snowmobile, bicycle ride, etc. occurring nearly every week (or every day) somewhere in Winneshiek County, we will need to drastically increase our budget and commit multiple deputies full-time to these events. 

As I expressed to the organizers at WMT, I fully support them coming through our county and spending their time and money here, as I am a big proponent of tourism and the benefits it brings us. However, I am tasked with a responsibility to our citizens that their tax dollars are being utilized appropriately. Furthermore, I must be able to explain and back up everything we do. If we start providing services such as this for every private event, where does it end? We have to be prepared to finish whatever we start to ensure equity to all of our citizens, not just those with means, wealth or influence. 

We have been extremely busy investigating deaths, overdoses, drug abuse, sexual assaults, domestic assaults and multiple other crimes and life altering situations. We simply cannot justify diverting our already very limited resources to hours of traffic control for private for-profit events on the backs of the Winneshiek County taxpayers. 

I reminded the organizers at WMT that tractors on the roadways are subject to our traffic laws just like every other motor vehicle on the roads, and if they were followed, they should not have any safety issues. I also assured them that if they ran into any specific safety concerns to give us a call, and we would gladly respond and assist them as appropriate and practical. Unfortunately, they were not satisfied with that answer and have decided to respond in this very misleading fashion.  

Furthermore, I had communicated my position well in advance to the organizers at WMT, so this in no way should have come as a surprise to them. 

The bottom line is that my decision was based on the guiding principles of the position I hold, and I stand behind it. 

~ Sheriff Dan Marx 

Response

A response was sent to Sheriff Marx from WMT Radio and posted on Facebook:

“During Tractorcade earlier this week, some comments made by our staff members cast Sheriff Marx and the Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office in a negative light. As a radio station, company and unwavering supporters of law enforcement throughout Iowa and the rest of the country, it is not something we stand by. We have since reached out to Sheriff Marx and his office and apologized for the fallout the comments caused and are taking measures to make sure our employees will not engage in this behavior again. We look forward to a good working relationship with him and his office in the future.”

Winneshiek County Sheriff Dan Marx

“If we were to start committing multiple deputies to every run/walk, ATV/UTV, horse, classic car, motorcycle, snowmobile, bicycle ride, etc., occurring nearly every week (or every day) somewhere in Winneshiek County, we will need to drastically increase our budget...”

– Sheriff Dan Marx

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Carol Hagen
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9 months ago

I am proud of Sheriff Marx for his clear thinking, matter-of-fact response to the initial request by this organization, and his representation of the residents of Winneshiek County.