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Judge: Interviewees may be heard in suit over Costello report

A judge ruled Friday that individuals interviewed for an investigation into claims against Clay County Sheriff Larry Costello will get the chance to be heard on whether the report stemming from the probe should be made public.

A judge ruled Friday that individuals interviewed for an investigation into claims against Clay County Sheriff Larry Costello will get the chance to be heard on whether the report stemming from the probe should be made public.

Late last year, Forum Communications Co. filed a lawsuit in Clay County District Court seeking release of a report created by DeAnn Pladson, an attorney the county hired to look into claims that Costello assaulted, stalked, harassed and discriminated against deputy Kathy Cline.

The county has refused to turn over the report, stating in court documents that the information sought "is protected nonpublic data -- and confidential data.

"The data requested is not only relevant to the sheriff and the complainant deputy, but also many other individuals who have an expectation of privacy pertaining to information that has become part of the requested data," the county said in its answer to the suit.

If the court decides disclosure of some information is appropriate, the county is requesting that the court blackout the remainder before it is released.

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The Forum Communications lawsuit states the public should know the report's details because Costello holds an elected position and cannot be disciplined by the county.

The case is being heard by Judge Wally Senyk, who is normally chambered in Otter Tail County District Court.

At a hearing Friday, Senyk made several scheduling decisions regarding how the case will proceed.

Senyk also ruled that Cline and Costello are to be notified regarding upcoming hearings and opportunities to provide the court with information, both written and oral. Senyk extended the same consideration to anyone whose name is listed in the report as having been talked to by investigators.

Senyk said he has read the report as well as several exhibits. He said a review of summaries of some of the interviews shows that some portions are not confidential while others "clearly contain confidential information."

Cline has filed a federal lawsuit against Costello and the county.

Costello has said in court documents that he and Cline had a consensual affair he said was instigated by Cline.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

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Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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