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Forum staff reports , Published February 19 2014

Cass County administrator faces domestic assault charge

MOORHEAD – Keith Berndt, the county administrator for North Dakota's Cass County, faces two misdemeanor charges of fifth-degree domestic assault.

His attorney said he denies the allegations and plans to plead not guilty.

The citations filed earlier this month in Clay County District Court involve an alleged physical assault on a minor, according to court records and a Moorhead Police Department report.

Berndt, 53, 2000 8th St. S., is accused of committing an act with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death and intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm.

According to the police report, a Moorhead school resource police officer at Horizon Middle School was contacted about 11:07 a.m. Feb. 4 by a person required to report any alleged physical assault on a minor.

A police officer was then assigned to investigate the case.

The citation alleges the incident occurred at Berndt’s residence about 9:30 p.m. Feb. 2, the night of the Super Bowl.

The initial police report indicated the incident happened overnight on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, police Lt. Tory Jacobson said.

Jacobson said the investigation is open and follow-up interviews and reports are still being taken.

Berndt was not arrested or taken into custody during the investigation.

An initial court date has been set for March 25.

Berndt said he had no comment on the case, and referred questions to his attorney, Lisa Borgen of Vogel Law Firm in Moorhead.

“I was very surprised to hear the Moorhead police talking about the matter today. I had requested any reports in relation to this case a week ago and haven’t received anything,” Borgen said.

“Mr. Berndt received a ticket in the mail. And he, of course, has not assaulted anyone and will be pleading not guilty,” Borgen said.

Berndt was on the job Wednesday, a Cass County human resources staff member said. Attempts to reach Cass County Commission Chairman Ken Pawluk for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.

It’s the second criminal charge in recent years for Berndt, who served as the county engineer for nearly two decades before he was promoted to the administrator post in April 2011.

Berndt pleaded guilty to drunken driving after being arrested on Labor Day weekend in 2011 in Otter Tail County, Minn. He was sentenced to two years of probation, a suspended jail term of three months and $585 in fines and fees.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583