Lake County's human services director on leave after DUI arrest

Lake County's director of Health and Human Services has been placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday after being arrested on DUI charges earlier this month.

Dennis Henkel
Henkel was arrested July 13 near Schroeder on Highway 61 on his way from his home in Duluth to attend a meeting of county directors from the region.

Lake County's director of Health and Human Services has been placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday after being arrested on DUI charges earlier this month.

At the time of Dennis Henkel's arrest July 13 on Highway 61 near Schroeder, he told a police officer he was on his way to a 1 p.m. meeting of the regional directors of human services in Schroeder and that he'd been drinking in his car since leaving Duluth that morning.

Henkel, 61, was pulled over for driving 70 mph in a 55 mph zone just before 1 p.m.

He's been charged with DUI, speeding and having an open bottle of an alcoholic beverage in his car.

He was jailed in Grand Marais on a 12-hour hold and attended the human services meeting the next day.


The Lake County board of commissioners met in a closed session Tuesday night and would not talk about the incident or actions taken afterward, only confirming that he was placed on paid administrative leave. The commissioners would not discuss when he was put on leave, whether Henkel was on the job during his arrest, or why he had been allowed to attend the meeting in Schroeder.

Commissioner Paul Berman said the board might take action on Henkel at the next meeting, which is 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Henkel has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol report filed in district court in Grand Marais:

A State Patrol trooper met Henkel as he drove northeast in a silver Subaru Forester on Highway 61 just outside of Schroeder. When the trooper approached the passenger side of Henkel's car and asked for his license, she said she noticed a brown paper bag in the glove box and other bags and plastic on the floor of the passenger side of the vehicle.

She went back to her car to process his license information and noticed Henkel was "busy arranging things in the car."

When the trooper returned to the driver's side of the car, she saw him with an open liter bottle of peppermint schnapps with an "inch of liquor left in it." She said Henkel did not respond to her request to hand the bottle over and she was forced to go to the passenger side of the vehicle to get it. She opened the door and noticed "wood and brush fall out" of the car and a fresh scrape along the passenger side of the car. She asked Henkel about the scrape and he didn't reply, the trooper reported.

Also according to the State Patrol report, the trooper asked Henkel if he had been drinking and he reportedly said "not now." She then gave him several roadside sobriety tests, which he failed. He blew a 0.128 percent in a breath alcohol test. The trooper made an arrest for fourth-degree DUI.


Any level over 0.08 percent is considered over the legal limit to drive.

The trooper went through the car and found another bottle of schnapps, half-full, and an unopened margarita drink.

After the arrest, Henkel is said to have told police he was driving from Duluth to Superior Ridge Resort in Schroeder for the regional meeting. He said his first drink was at 10 a.m. after getting two 12-ounce cups of coffee at a shop in the mall area in Duluth. Police reported that he admitted to pouring at least 2 ounces of schnapps in them.

Police asked about the scrape on the car and Henkel reportedly said he had no idea how it got there.

Henkel's first court appearance is today in Grand Marais.

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