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Town bares all - {Election Fraud}
Pioneer Press ^ | 10.20.02 | BOB SHAW and AMY SHERMAN

Posted on 10/20/2002 7:19:46 AM PDT by wallcrawlr

Get a load of this election: 94 people falsely claiming to live in a strip club. A flood of felony charges alleging fraudulent voter registrations. Pet cats dead — allegedly poisoned. A big sign on a house saying, "No more Boss Hog." The future of the strip club — painted Pepto-Bismol pink — at stake.

What kind of place is tiny Coates, Minnesota?

"It isn't Andy of Mayberry. It isn't anything at all," said Mayor Jack Gores. "It isn't like we all have block parties or something."

Coates is a slowly shrinking town of 163, on the edge of the suburban/rural divide in Dakota County, an unlikely place for a big-city-style election scandal. But the town made national news this week when prosecutors charged Richard Jacobson, the owner of Jake's strip club, in a voter fraud case reminiscent of old-style Chicago politics.

Also charged were 94 others, including dancers and patrons of the club, who allegedly signed voter registration cards saying they lived at the club. Authorities say the goal of the scheme was to oust the anti-Jake's City Council in the upcoming election. Jacobson's attorney has said that no crimes were committed. Defendants who spoke with the Pioneer Press said they were duped into signing the voter registration cards.

The election scandal happened in Coates, of all places, because that's where Jake's is. Authorities say the voter drive was Jacobson's latest strategy to save his strip club, which opened in 1992 and was recently shut down by the courts and City Council. His tactics have included dumping 600,000 pennies at a City Council meeting in August to pay a legal bill. Jacobson, who couldn't be reached for comment, hopes to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.


There isn't much to Coates: About 41 homesteads, a handful of businesses and some farmland.

There is no city hall, so the City Council meets in the St. Agatha's Church hall and city clerk Marjorie Karnick — the only regular part-time staff person, who earns a salary of less than $5,000 a year — keeps the records in her home.

Karnick types up the minutes on a typewriter and posts them at Coates Corner, the local gas station and convenience store. She tracks the budget, which is about $36,000 for next year, with a ledger, a checkbook and in "my head," she says jokingly.

Coates isn't quaint, but it has character. Folks gather at Coates Corner and House of Coates bar to fill up on daily gossip.

Some newcomers say this isn't a small town where it's hard to fit in. Jim Perkovich, who owns an auto repair shop, says he knows almost everyone in Coates after living here for five years. Perkovich lives above the House of Coates, where he eats lunch several days a week, just a couple of doors down the street from his business.

"I like small towns. … I don't like the hustle, I don't like the city," Perkovich said.

Sandra Horsch, who is married to Council Member Jim Horsch, sat down recently to record her feelings about Coates on paper: "We are first ordinary people, hardworking and basically live in a place where most people would be proud of saying they are a part of. Most of us are from farming-type upbringing. Hardworking. Learning to put our faith in God for our needs."


Not much changes in Coates. When longtime resident Larry McCarthy was asked whether anything has changed since he first moved to Coates in the 1960s, he said, "We blacktopped the parking lot at church."

Coates comes complete with eccentrics. Before Jake's was painted pink, the most noticeable spot in town was the yard with the funky metal sculptures in front of Bob "Bear" Johnson's welding shop. A straight-talking guy covered in tattoos, Johnson looks more like a biker than an artist.

The sculptures bring out his introspective side: He recently added a piece called "The Co-signer" which has an old banker's safe with a banker's arm with "shiny banker fingernails" protruding out of it.

But not everyone gets along.

Take, for example, the two mayoral candidates. Daniel Palodichuk is challenging incumbent Jack Gores for a second time. A sign on Palodichuk's house says it all: "End the non-sense! No more Boss Hog and the good ole' boys. Stop the fools — election 02."

He said many people in the town have harassed him for years, something Gores denies. He said that the council and mayor repeatedly changed zoning laws to try to shut down Jake's, and Palodichuk's flooring business.

"They are all in cahoots with these ordinance violations. That's why they hate me and despise me — I don't let them wipe their feet on my forehead,'' Palodichuk said.

His 14-year-old daughter, he said, asked him, "Daddy, how come no one in town likes you?"

He said that their two cats were poisoned a few years ago.

The Dakota County Sheriff's Office has had more than 70 calls either from or about Palodichuk since 1998, mostly for nuisance issues. Palodichuk said he was simply reporting on a constant stream of vandalism and harassment.

Gores and other city officials have said that Palodichuk, not the city, is the problem. Council Member Todd Tubbs said, "Dan is always in some sort of argument with his neighbors. One minute he's the nicest guy you could know, but if he ever gets mad at you, he's coming after you."

Earlier this year, a Dakota County judge ordered Palodichuk to have no contact with a relative of the mayor's who complained that Palodichuk made an obscene gesture and spun his tires in front of his home, according to court records. Palodichuk told the court that the other man was harassing him — spying on him with binoculars, among other things — but the judge dismissed Palodichuk's petition, saying his allegations were vague.

Some people say Palodichuk doesn't even live in town, so shouldn't run for mayor — and court records show addresses in Coates and Randolph. Palodichuk says he lives in an apartment in his building in Coates, but visits his girlfriend in Randolph often.


The only real issue in this election is Jake's. Palodichuk, who helped dump the 600,000 pennies, says he sympathizes with the strip-club owner.

"I am a firm believer that if you don't like something, you can change the channel," he said, meaning that any adult in the town is free to go to the strip club or ignore it.

Palodichuk, whose campaign presumably would have benefited from the alleged election scam, says he didn't know a thing about it. "I was as surprised as anyone," he said. "I think it is asinine. It's ludicrous to say that they would all live there. I mean, c'mon."

And although most citizens seem to oppose Jake's, the issue has become a divisive one — even within families.

"They thought they were going to run this town, and they are not going to," Mike Bohn, owner of the House of Coates, said the day the charges were filed. The alleged effort to fix the election "takes away the constitutional rights of this town. It would have canceled every single one of our votes, and then some."

His father sees it differently. If the election fraud proves to be true, said Ed Bohn, the owner "went about it the wrong way."

However, he said, "I don't know what people have against (Jake's). You don't have to go in there if you don't want to."

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections

1 posted on 10/20/2002 7:19:46 AM PDT by wallcrawlr
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To: wallcrawlr
I wonder what the breakdown, by party, is of the 94....
2 posted on 10/20/2002 7:29:30 AM PDT by ErnBatavia
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To: wallcrawlr
I doubt party monikers mean much in a town where you have only two categories: in-office or non-in-office.
3 posted on 10/20/2002 9:56:46 AM PDT by TinkersDam
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To: wallcrawlr
Reminds me of this place:


4 posted on 10/20/2002 1:22:37 PM PDT by ccmay
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