Petition challenges Michaels' candidacy in District 6
By Lanier Frush Holt
An Olmsted County resident has filed a petition with the county auditor's office that could remove Jean Michaels' name from Tuesday's primary election ballot.
The petition, filed by Gary Donovan of Rochester Township, questions the intent of Michaels' move to an apartment last month and alleges the long-time commissioner made the move just to regain her seat on the Olmsted County Board for District 6.
Michaels, who has represented the district since 1986, moved to a new residence in Rochester in June. It was determined soon thereafter that she had inadvertently moved out of her district and had to surrender her board seat. Michaels has since taken a second residence and moved back into the district. She's running in Tuesday's special primary election for the board seat, opposed by three other candidates.
Though he does not live in the district, Donovan, 4444 60th Ave. S.W., Rochester Township, said it's imperative for voters to know Michaels' intention. Should she win in Tuesday's election, he said, and it is proven Michaels is not a resident of the district, county taxpayers would incur additional costs for another special election. The primary and general elections will cost a combined $12,000, according to county officials.
Dan Hall, director of property and licensing for Olmsted County, is set to rule on the petition today. Donovan alleges Michaels moved back into the district simply to qualify for election. Hall will determine if her actions violated any Minnesota laws.
If Hall's petition is successful, Michaels could petition to the secretary of state. If Donovan's petition fails, there's apparently no appeals process.
Michaels said she sleeps in her new residence, which has furniture and a phone, about five nights a week.
"I fully intend to stay in the district," Michaels said when questioned by Donovan.
Donovan, a supervisor for Rochester Township and a long-time election official, said he filed the petition to get a definitive answer on Michaels' intentions. Though Michaels has often been perceived as a staunch supporter of urban issues that often put her at odds with townships, Donovan maintains this is not a city-township issue.
"I'm speaking strictly for myself," he said. "I'm acting strictly as a citizen, and this is not a political action."