The criminal complaints filed Friday by the Washington County Attorney’s Office against former Lumberjack Days organizer Dave Eckberg were the latest in a string of issues that resulted in the ending of Stillwater’s well-known summer festival.
The 2011 Lumberjack Days event did not go as planned with weather and lightning taking away most of the crowds and entertainment opportunities. But the issues facing the festival and Eckberg date back before what turned out to be the last Lumberjack Days weekend.
Between July 27, 2011, and Nov. 1, 2011, court documents allege that investigations showed Eckberg allegedly deposited and transferred more than $41,000 from bank accounts for the Lumberjack Days Festival Association Inc., and his business, St. Croix Events Inc., to his and wife Stacy Einck’s personal bank accounts, then repeatedly told companies that participated in Lumberjack Days not to cash their checks because there was not sufficient funds to pay them.
Court documents also allege that on Oct. 18, 2011, Stillwater Police received information regarding an alleged theft by check and issuance of dishonored check on or about July 20, 2011, from Eckberg. The checks in question were cashed by Needham Distributing Co. and Hohensteins Inc. and drawn on Eckberg’s corporate account for purchased beer.
A short time later, the Stillwater Blue Line Boosters and Icabod Productions also reported insufficient fund checks written by Eckberg, with the checks valued at more than $35,000.
In December, the Stillwater City Council suspended Lumberjack Days pending the outcome of investigations into Eckberg’s finances.
On Feb. 6, 2012, New Ulm Battery filed a complaint, stating that an alleged verbal agreement had been made between the owner and Eckberg in 2009 to provide cannons for the Fourth of July celebration for $1,500. It was the fourth company in six months to file a complaint against Eckberg.
In early February, Stillwater City Administrator Larry Hansen told the Gazette time was winding down to organize both the festival and Stillwater Marathon and a resolution to cancel the Lumberjack Days contract went before the city council.
On Feb. 22, 2012, the Gazette reported that the city council unanimously agreed to cancel the five-year contract with The Lumberjack Days Festival Association resulting in no summer festival occurring this during summer.
It was reported then that the association still owed the city $22,000 for the 2011 festival plus gate fees, and that gate fees from 2010 had yet to be paid. Also, it still owed the city $7,500 for the 2010 and 2011 Stillwater Marathons.
The council had originally decided to delay any decision on the festival until the Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigation was completed, but Hansen told the council it had to move forward because waiting was holding up the city’s Fourth of July plans.
The case was given to the County Attorney’s office June 1 after the Sheriff’s Office assisted with the investigation.
On June 19, Eckberg and his wife filed for personal bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy court in Minneapolis. In their filing they stated they have more than $707,700 in assets and $2.378 million in liabilities to more than 100 creditors. Eckberg said he had no income in 2011 while his wife listed an income of $80,793 and 2010 income for Eckberg is listed as $99,647.
On Friday, after what the County Attorney’s office called an extensive investigation, 10 felony charges were filed against Eckberg, five counts of theft by check and five counts of issuance of a dishonored check.