RED WING — With both parents active with Leo C. Peterson American Legion Post 54, Heidi Krause said interacting with local veterans was a normal part of growing up. So when an administrative assistant job opened in the Goodhue County Veterans Service Office, she jumped at the opportunity.
Krause worked in the office for 20 years, staying with it because she said she enjoyed the job and respected her boss, former Veterans Service Officer Bob Davis. She said her dedication to veterans kept her going in recent years even after her working relationship soured with county administration.
Now facing a health crisis, she said it was time to pack it in.
Krause, who was on administrative leave since mid-2019, retired from the Veterans Service Office this month, fulfilling a separation agreement she reached with the county after years of internal controversy.
“The reason why I stayed is because I liked what I did,” she said in a phone interview. “And I thought I could still help veterans and help protect them in a situation which was very awkward.”
Krause made headlines in 2014 after alleging the county retaliated against her for forwarding a substantiated tip that former Veterans Service Officer Lyman “Robby” Robinson Jr. had a history of sexual harassment at his previous job in Washington County. She also alleged Robinson stared at her breasts. Krause settled with the county in August 2014.
Robinson ultimately resigned from the county in May 2019 following sexual harassment complaints stemming from a Minnesota Association of County Veterans Service Officers conference that spring in Mankato. Nathan Pelz was named as his replacement.
Krause said 2019 was a difficult year. She was diagnosed with cancer and also placed on administrative leave from the county. She said it wasn’t until January 2020 she learned the leave was because the county was investigating her for alleged wrongdoing, including accusations of money discrepancies and disclosing information about a veteran.
Though Krause denied the accusations and had documentation prepared to refute them, she said the cancer diagnosis is why she decided to settle with the county again.
“Because I don’t want to waste my time in court dealing with them,” she said.
The separation agreement, obtained by the Republican Eagle through a data request, was signed in March. It included a $55,500 payment, of which $33,300 went to Krause and $22,200 to her attorney. She also waived medical benefits starting in April. In exchange, Krause and the AFSCME Council 65 union would withdraw any grievances and release all claims against the county.
The agreement also included a stipulation that the county would draft a news release thanking Krause for two decades of serving local veterans. The county issued it July 2.
The news release reads:
“Heidi Krause is retiring after 20 years of service to the citizens of Goodhue County. Heidi will be remembered for her heartfelt commitment to veterans and her advocacy regarding veteran issues. Goodhue County appreciates Heidi’s dedication and commitment to those issues and to the citizens of Goodhue County. We wish her the best moving forward.”
The Veterans Service Office helps veterans and their dependents sign up for state and federal benefits, such as health care, disability compensation and burial benefits.
Krause said she is leaving the office on a somber note.
“I miss the veterans, absolutely,” she said. “And I feel really saddened that they’re not getting the services that they’re accustomed to getting.”
She thanked veterans for their support and for reaching out about her health.
Now in retirement, Krause said she will focus on getting well and, when it’s safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, travel with her husband.