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Dave Olson, Published April 26 2012

Former Moorhead city councilman charged with careless driving

MOORHEAD – Greg Lemke, a former Moorhead City Council member and currently the director of public safety at Minnesota State University Moorhead, faces a careless driving charge in Clay County District Court.

The case is set to go to trial Tuesday.

According to a police report filed with the misdemeanor charge:

The incident happened Feb. 16 on 20th Street South in Moorhead.

Angelica Varriano, of Moorhead, told police she was southbound on 20th Street and driving about 30 mph when Lemke, whose car was in front of her, stopped abruptly.

She said she tried to go around Lemke’s car by using the center turn lane when Lemke sped up to pass Varriano, and it appeared to her that he was racing her.

Varriano told police her car slid on dirt and debris in the relatively unused center lane, and she collided with Lemke’s vehicle.

The report stated that Lemke – a former Fargo police lieutenant – told the officer Varriano’s vehicle was “on his bumper,” and he slowed down, but he denied coming to a complete stop.

“Lemke told me that Varriano passed him in the center lane and that as she went by he gave her the middle finger, as he was mad at her while she was going around. Lemke then said, ‘I sped up, which I shouldn’t have done’ and then claims she intentionally turned into him,” officer Scott Kostohryz said in his report.

In a separate report, the officer related what transpired when he later issued Lemke a citation for careless driving.

Kostohryz said after he explained to Lemke why he was being cited and made reference to Lemke’s initial statement, Lemke responded by saying: “I never said that.”

In their follow-up conversation, Kostohryz said Lemke told him Varriano extended her middle finger towards him multiple times before driving around him, something, Kostohryz said, Lemke did not mention in his earlier comments.

Lemke’s attorney, Cash Aaland, said the defense will dispute the police report’s narrative and he provided the following statement:

“Greg noticed a vehicle to his rear tailgating him, following him dangerously close.

“Greg slowed his vehicle, and the other driver flipped him off and passed him unlawfully in the left turn lane. In doing so, she collided with his vehicle,” the statement read.

It continued to say that when the female driver drove away, Lemke feared she was attempting to flee the accident scene, so he followed and used his cell phone to call police.

“He is not guilty of careless driving, and we are confident when the jury gets all the facts they will agree,” Aaland said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555