Red Wing recall lawsuit dropped . . . for now
Lawyer pulls out of recall case, but leaders of the Recall City Hall committee say they might refile once they find new representation.
RED WING — As of late Wednesday night, the lawsuit against the city of Red Wing and the city council for not setting a date for a special recall election was over.
Attorney Gregory J. Joseph withdrew from the case, according to a notice of withdrawal filed in 1st District Court and stamped 9:33 p.m. Aug. 18, 2021. With Joseph off the case and no new attorney immediately assigned, the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs have the right to re-file it.
Joseph would not comment directly on the case.
The withdrawal and dismissal come just two days before a 1st District Court hearing was scheduled to take place.
Opponents of the recall effort saw the dismissal as a sign of victory.
"I take this as an admission that they knew both that they would not win, and also that there could be sanctions for bringing a suit with no basis in law or fact," said Carol Overland, a Red Wing resident and an attorney, although she is not connected to the case.
It is that threat of sanctions, Overland suspected, that likely led to Joseph stepping down.
George Hintz, the leader of the recall committee, said in a written statement that the committee was withdrawing because it did not want to burden Red Wing taxpayers with the expense of a lengthy court battle. Instead, the group would focus on finding and supporting qualified candidates for the 2022 election when council members Dean Hove, Erin Buss, Becky Norton and Laurel Stinson are up for re-election.
"Make no mistake, we were confident of ultimate victory," Hintz wrote. "However, we cannot, in good conscience, allow taxpayers to assume expensive legal bill on behalf of the council, that should rightly be borne by individual Council members."
Not everyone on the recall committee agreed.
Peggy Rehder, who resigned from the city council in May 2018, said the group reserves the right to refile the lawsuit and, if it can find willing legal counsel, will do so.
"When your attorney is intimidated into withdrawing, you don’t have a choice," Rehder said. "My position, at this point, is we need another lawyer to look at this."
Rehder said she believed Joseph was bullied into withdrawing from the case, with the city threatening to bring sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
Overland said she's confident the whole brouhaha over the recall is done.
"I do hope that they're done with this," Overland said. "Some citizens are against the council, but the majority are not."
She pointed out that each of the council members was elected by a majority of the voters in their ward or wards.
"These are the elections that they are trying to undo with the recall," Overland said. "The majority of the principles of the recall effort are those who lost in those elections."