State investigation supports conflict of interest findings regarding Two Harbors mayor
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State investigation supports conflict of interest findings regarding Two Harbors mayor

Trouble continues to swirl around the embattled mayor of Two Harbors, including a report released July 28 by the state auditor’s office supporting claims of possible financial conflicts of interest involving Mayor Chris Swanson.

The 75-page report released by the auditor’s office focuses, in part, on the financial conflicts of interest connected to Swanson and businesses he and his family own in and around Two Harbors.

According to the report: “The (state auditor’s office) found instances where city actions involved one or more of the businesses that appear to be connected to the mayor. Documentation suggests that the mayor may have disclosed an interest in some of these businesses. For others, we found no documentation of such disclosure.”

The investigation by the office of State Auditor Julie Blaha follows statements from earlier this year where the city attorney of Two Harbors cited possible conflicts of interest involving the mayor. In March, for example, Two Harbors City Attorney Tim Costley filed a memorandum of opinion that claimed Swanson used his position as mayor “for personal benefit or business interests.”

“Where they said there was a conflict of interest, we have no reason to second guess that,” Blaha told WTIP during an interview on July 28.

In a separate statement sent to WTIP, the state auditor said she supports the findings of the Two Harbors city attorney.

“There is no reason to second-guess the decisions by Two Harbors city officials,” Blaha said. “Based on our review, the actions of the city council and the city attorney were decided properly. In addition, the city attorney was the proper person to offer the city council the facts and conclusions.”

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Blaha to learn more about the report and what it means for Two Harbors and Swanson’s future as the city’s mayor. Audio below.

In related news, Swanson is facing a recall election Tuesday, Aug. 9. On the recall ballot, Two Harbors voters will answer yes or no to one question: “Shall Mayor Christopher Swanson be recalled?”

Last month, the Two Harbors City Council voted 6-0 in asking Swanson to resign.