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Minnesotans sue cities, counties over ticket diversion classes

WABASHA, Minn. -- A group of nine Minnesota residents filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday requesting that 36 cities and counties return fees for traffic-ticket diversion programs.

The suit, filed in Wabasha County District Court, follows a court ruling in January that declared a safe-driving class in Wabasha County illegal because the sheriff’s office kept program revenue without sharing any with the state, which takes a portion of all traffic fines.

Now citizens want cities and counties to return all of the collected fees, estimated by the state auditor at around $2 million since 2010.

Devised as an alternative to paying certain traffic tickets, the programs offer local driving classes for a fee of $75 to $125. Completing the class meant the ticket would not go onto attendees’ records or affect insurance premiums.

The January ruling prompted governments to close similar classes statewide while the issue gets worked out in the Legislature.

The class action also names as a plaintiff the Association for Government Accountability, a watchdog group that was part of the original suit against Wabasha County.

Attorney Erick Kaardal, who is representing the plaintiffs, could not be reached Friday for comment.