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Red Wing council members not worried about recall effort

Three petitions have enough signatures, and the recall committee is working to fix problems on three more.

Becky Norton.png
Becky Norton
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RED WING — While the recall committee in Red Wing is busy fixing signatures on a few city council members' petitions, two members of the Red Wing City Council wonder what the point of the recall is all about.

"It’s not for malfeasance or nonfeasance," said Council Member Evan Brown. "That’s what the state constitution demands, what our city charter demands. It’s not for every gripe."

City Council President Becky Norton echoed those thoughts.

"The city council members can be recalled for malfeasance or nonfeasance in office," Norton said. "That’s the standard we’re still working under."

MORE READING: City attorney: Red Wing recall doesn't pass muster

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According to the Minnesota Constitution, malfeasance, which is what the recall committee alleges occurred, means "the willful commission of an unlawful or wrongful act in the performance of a public official's duties which is outside the scope of the authority of the public official and which infringes on the rights of any person or entity."

Evan Brown, Red Wing City Council
Evan Brown

The allegations made by the recall committee point to three meetings where, according to the committee's petitions against each member of the city council, the council held a closed meeting in violation of state statues. Norton, Brown and members of the city administration have said the council has not violated the state's open meeting law.

In fact, Brown said, he was not even in attendance at one of the meetings where the recall organizers claim an open meeting law violation.

Instead, Brown said he hears a lot of talk from the recall committee – he pointed to the recall committee's website – about issues that have nothing to do with the charges listed on the petitions.

"Look at the recall petition’s website, look at their literature, it doesn’t have anything to do with open meetings law violations," Brown said, adding that the charges of malfeasance don't meet the legal definition.

"I haven’t seen a single piece of case law that will dispute that," he said.

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Meanwhile, the recall committee has until next week to fix irregularities with three of the petitions.

According to committee leaders, the city has verified that the committee has enough valid signatures for a recall of Norton and fellow council members Andy Klitzke and Laurel Stinson. The committee has 10 days from May 15 to fix errors with signatures or find new signatures for Brown (80 signatures) and Council Member Erin Buss (60 signatures).

Meanwhile, a clerical error on the petitions against Council Member Dean Hove occurred and need to be fixed. When the completed petitions were submitted, the wrong names were listed as the original committee of five signatures from Hove's wards.

Norton said no matter how many council members receive enough verified signatures, she plans to follow the advice of City Attorney Amy Mace who, at this point, has said because the legal premise behind the recall is invalid, it would be irresponsible for the city council to vote to set an election.

If that's the case, members of the recall committee have said there may be a court challenge.

"They are alleging violations of the open meeting laws," Norton said. "But there's no evidence that any one or all of the council members have violated the law.

“At what point do they realize this will go nowhere?” Norton asked.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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