Duluth Chamber President Addresses DWI Charge
DULUTH, Minn. – The president of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce pleaded not guilty this week to two gross misdemeanor charges connected to an alleged drunken-driving incident.
According to a criminal complaint, in September Matthew Baumgartner, 39, was found in his car intoxicated.
The complaint says police were called to a downtown Duluth parking ramp where Baumgartner was allegedly nodding off in his car, and police found an open container of vodka.
A blood-alcohol test showed a concentration of .295, which is three times the legal limit to drive, according to the complaint. Baumgartner had a previous impaired driving conviction five years ago.
Baumgartner sent the following letter to the chamber board and members of the chamber Thursday evening addressing the DWI charges:
December 15, 2022
Letter to Members
Dear Chamber members:
I am writing to address a difficult and humbling issue and feel like you deserve to hear directly from me. Recently, there was news coverage of my being charged in September with an alcohol-related driving offense. I am sorry for this as it is undoubtedly troubling to you, not just as a Chamber member but as someone who drives Duluth’s streets. It is certainly troubling to me as well. On the advice of counsel, I will continue to respectfully decline to comment publicly at this time on the ongoing legal issue. Yet, I can offer you some background that I feel like you deserve.
During the three months since the incident, I asked for help and took a much needed and overdue medical leave to receive counseling from the professionals at Hazelden Betty Ford. Additionally, since the incident and my leave, I have continued working on my mental health and life balance, and I continue to take steps that are making me a better person, leader, husband and dad.
Thanks to the support of our talented staff, my family and friends, Chamber leadership and many community leaders and partners, I was able to take the time I needed to step away, get the help I needed, refocus, and have come back as energized and inspired as ever. I remain proud of everything we have accomplished over the last year; the Chamber remains my dream job, and hope the results speak for themselves.
I apologize to you for the justifiable concern this has caused. I personally want to thank you for your support and patience. I recognize that this sort of thing has affected many of us, and our families, in different ways and I want to acknowledge and honor that. I pledge to work tirelessly to rebuild any fractures in trust that have occurred. I look forward to our bold 2023 Action Plan that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on Business Conditions, Community Progress, and Economic Development. For the time being and as the legal process unfolds, my priorities are my work and taking the steps needed to support my family and protect their privacy
We are poised for a successful 2023. If you have questions about this situation, please contact us at email@example.com.
Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce
Meanwhile, news surfaced last week that a former chamber employee raised concerns with Baumgartner about how a key leadership position was filled.
Martha Bremer said she was terminated by Baumgartner for raising her concerns, and she has hired an attorney to represent her in a lawsuit against the chamber.
Baumgartner said his office followed all proper procedures in filling the position, and that Bremer’s termination had nothing to do with her raising concerns.