County probes power line incident
A veteran Steele County highway worker is under investigation after being involved in a crash while working last fall that caused more than $20,000 of damages to utility lines in Owatonna.
County administrator Scott Golberg confirmed that David Jensen faces possible disciplinary action once an employment investigation is completed. Jensen has been employed with Steele County for 39 years. He is currently a highway maintenance technician.
On Nov. 13 at about 1:47 p.m., Owatonna Police responded to the area of Hartle Avenue SE and 18thStreet SE. According to the police report, a truck hit power lines, which then hit a car and live wires were on the ground. Owatonna Public Utilities responded to the scene to repair the power lines, which had knocked out power to the area.
Officers and reserve officers remained on the scene to provide traffic control in the area. Barricades were also utilized to keep people safe from the downed lines.
Police did not issue any citations as a result of the crash. However, Steele County began its own investigation because Jensen was working for the county at the time of the incident.
Golberg said Jensen was operating a Tandem truck with a box, which is “like a dump truck,” when the incident took place. “The back of the truck was up,” Golberg said. “He didn’t realize he had it still up when he turned onto the road,” he said, noting the box came into contact with a power pole causing the lines to snap.
“It was an obvious error in judgment,” Golberg said.
As of last week, the county has incurred at least $23,000 in damages from the incident, according to Julie Johnson, Human Resources director for Steele County. The county has received bills of $14,000 from OPU and $9,000 from Charter Communications. Johnson said the total could go higher as the county is waiting for another bill from an area dental office, which was affected by the power outage.
Golberg said the damages will be submitted to the county’s insurance provider.
The investigation, Golberg said, is being handled by Scott Lepack, a Twin Cities labor employment attorney hired by the county. Golberg said it is customary for the county to hire outside legal counsel for internal personnel matters.
No disciplinary action has been taken against Jensen at this time pending the outcome of the investigation. Johnson hopes to move ahead with the case in the next few weeks.
Asked if distracted driving was a factor in the crash, Johnson said she is unable to release any further details at this time.
Johnson confirmed that the county has disciplined Jensen in the past, but the exact details of the discipline are unknown.