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mikerandleman / By MIKE RANDLEMAN 

Riders take off from the starting line during warm-ups at Faribault BMX. A new starting gate was constructed in 2017. (Mike Randleman/Faribault Daily News)

Merlin Players show more than usual in 'The Full Monty'

This summer, the Merlin Players present a musical production that anyone who ever lost a job can relate to — but maybe not in every way.

“The Full Monty” follows six recently unemployed steelworkers who become so desperate to make extra money they decide to become male strippers after the Chippendales comes to town.

If that doesn’t sound like an average musical, it shouldn’t. According to Director Eric Parrish, “The Full Monty” is meant to draw a crowd of non-theatergoers.

“We were going to do [‘The Full Monty’] in 2015, but there were concerns about content and very specific casting needs,” said Parrish. “It’s been a bucket list item for Merlin Players, and we’re excited to finally get to do it.”

The show, which includes cast members from across the region, premieres 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 26 at the Paradise Center for the Arts and continues for six more performances at 7:30 p.m. July 27, Aug. 1 through 3 and 2 p.m. July 28 and Aug. 4. With adult content and language, Parrish considers the show R-rated.

Parrish selected the show in part because its composer, David Yazbek, has become increasingly popular in the theater world with score credits for other movie to musical adaptations like “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Tootsie,” based on the 1982 movie starring Dustin Hoffman. Yazbek, a jazz club musician, includes elements of funk from the New York jazz club scene in “The Full Monty.”

Jerry and Dave, the show’s two leads, have been friends since high school and work for the same steel mill in Buffalo, New York, until they both get laid off. Nate Chesney, of Owatonna, plays the more confidant instigator Jerry while Matt Drenth, of Faribault, portrays his loyal and down-to-earth companion, Dave. The friends gain the support of four more unemployed men — Malcolm (Brandon Noble), Ethan (Johnny Esch), Horace (guest artist Reginald Haney of the Twin Cities) and Harold (Tom Ett) — and together they pursue an unlikely career path.

“The cast is a fun group to work with,” said Drenth, who’s performed in about a dozen other Merlin Players shows. “It’s all different personalities.”

Chesney, who’s starred in his fair share of Merlin Players productions himself, said he’s worked with a variety of newcomers in “The Full Monty.”

“Getting to know different personalities has been fun,” said Chesney. “All in all, I just want the audience to have fun. There’s a lot of character progression, which is nice.”

Drenth hopes the audience takes note of the familiar elements of “The Full Monty,” particularly factory work and themes of unemployment.

Brandon Noble, of Owatonna, who plays the character Malcolm, described the show as “a comedy with heart,” and adds that Malcolm, a sheltered “mama’s boy” never expected to pursue a career in male stripping.

“You don’t have to like stripping men and musicals to enjoy this show,” said Noble. “It’s very well written. The concept of wondering if the characters will actually go ‘the full monty’ keeps people on the edge of their seats.”

Deputy corrections commissioner resigns, the latest in Minn. leadership shake-up

ST. PAUL — A deputy commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Corrections on Friday, submitted her resignation six months into her tenure there, citing a desire to advance “wide-spread reform” outside the department.

Sarah Walker, who served as deputy commissioner of community services, resigned effective immediately on Friday and in her letter of resignation said she was pleased with some of the work she’d accomplished within DOC, but she wanted to do more.

“In my short time as deputy commissioner, I have become convinced that my voice and skills are best suited for pushing for wide-spread reform from the outside,” Walker wrote in her letter of resignation. “There are unique opportunities at the local and national level to advance significant reforms and reduce racial disparities and I feel compelled to contribute to those efforts without encumbrance.”

A DOC spokeswoman said the department had received complaints about Walker and an investigation was ongoing.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell appointed Walker, a long-time advocate for criminal justice reform who lobbied at the Capitol and founded the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, in January. At the time, Walker said she looked forward to implementing “evidence-based solutions to address the cycle of recidivism and the high number of technical violations.”

While she said she was pleased to have restructured the department’s re-entry unit, added to workgroups and committees individuals who represent communities of color and advanced conversations at the local level about alternatives to incarceration for those who have parole revoked.

“With limited exceptions, they welcomed me and welcomed the prospect of large systems changes that would reduce reliance on revocations and incarceration,” she wrote about her colleagues at the department. “In my assessment, with proper resources and support, they will continue to support reform and are well-positioned to make significant advancement.”

Walker declined further comment about her resignation on Friday morning.

Schnell said he received and accepted Walker’s resignation Friday.

“While Sarah’s tenure with the agency was short, her contribution in helping us think about and frame the future of criminal justice reforms was valued,” Schnell said in a statement. “I wish Sarah well in her future endeavors.”

The move comes during the same week that the Department of Human Services saw its top official and his chief of staff step down, triggering two deputy commissioners to rescind their resignations.

The shake-up in leadership there fueled questions about the Walz administration’s management with Republican lawmakers branding it a scandal.

“If there is no fraud then prove it, if there is no scandal behind the resignations of these three people, then be transparent and prove it. Let’s know everything that there is to know about why this is happening,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said. “What we want to know now is what caused this so that we can prevent this from happening again.”

Early in the week, Walz said the resignation of then-Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey didn’t point to corruption in the department, but rather an acknowledgment that running the state agency with the largest staff is a difficult task.

“There’s going to be a desire to find more drama than is there, those of you that know me know I don’t do drama,” Walz told reporters. “I will take Commissioner Lourey at his word that he felt he was not the right person at this time.”

Faribault police this week took several reports of garage burglaries. The burglaries occurred within a several block radius of Division Street West and Seventh Avenue. The burglaries have been limited to vehicles and garages, according to Faribault Police Capt. Neal Pederson, with the biggest items stolen was a 55-inch TV. These images of possible suspects were captured by a resident’s home surveillance camera. Anyone with information on the thefts or potential suspects is asked to contact Detective DJ Skluzacek at 507-334-4305. (Image courtesy of Faribault Police Department)

Attorneys for both sides want officer's suit against city, county dismissed

Documents filed Thursday in Rice County court ask that a suit, in which a Faribault Police officer claimed she was falsely labeled a liar, be dismissed.

Attorneys for the officer, Lisa Petricka, along with attorneys for the defendants in the case — the city of Faribault and Rice County — have made the request, stipulating that if a judge approves, Petricka can’t file another lawsuit based on the same issue.

No reason was given for the dismissal, and attorneys for all three parties did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

A complaint filed Aug. 22, 2018, claimed that Police Chief Andy Bohlen improperly labeled Petricka a liar, ruining her prospects for advancement and ability to earn overtime pay. The suit followed an April 2018 decision by Bohlen to reassign Petricka from patrol duties to coordinating events and downtown parking enforcement, which a non-licensed officer would typically perform.

The change, which Bohlen detailed in one of two April 2018 letters to Petricka filed along with the suit, were to ensure Petricka doesn’t answer calls that could later require court testimony.

The chief, in one of the letters, explained that a decision by the Rice County Attorney’s Office had labeled Petricka as “Brady designated,” a reference to a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision which found that prosecutors are obligated to turn over information which could exonerate a defendant. More recent court rulings related to the 45-year old case have found that evidence pertaining to witnesses’ credibility must also be disclosed.

Petricka’s personnel records, included with the case filing and a separate suit Petricka filed against the city in early 2016, show that Bohlen on occasion has found Petricka to be untruthful on the job. That untruthfulness led Bohlen to ask the City Council to terminate Petricka in March 2015. And while the council approved the request, Petricka was reinstated a year later based on an arbitrator’s ruling.

The County Attorney’s Office updated its policy on Brady officers in April 2018. Shorty after, Bohlen modified Petricka’s duties.

According to the policy, prosecutors must disclose information to the defense that’s relevant to their case, particularly that which may benefit a defendant or may be used to impeach the credibility of prosecution witnesses. It also requires prosecutors to consider whether it’s necessary to have witnesses with known impeachment issues testify in court and says those officers won’t be relied on to sign verified complaints, affidavits or search warrant applications without disclosing those issues to the court.

Court records include a July 1 affidavit from Bohlen and a July 12 order from Judge Christine Long preventing the deposition of County Attorney John Fossum. In the order, Long agreed with the County Attorney’s Office that information it sought from Fossum could be obtained by other methods.

“We’re obviously glad that this matter is over and behind us,” said Faribault City Administrator Tim Murray.

The complaint, based on a designation made by the County Attorney’s Office, was out of the city’s control, he said.

“I feel like there’s a lot better things for everybody to spend their money on,” he said.