Red Wing recall movement hits the streets for signatures
Residents point to firing of Roger Pohlman along with open meeting violation as reason for signing petitions.
RED WING — Marching up Finrud Avenue and back, Cathy and Ron Goggin had a lot of conversations, fielded a bunch of questions, and collected enough signatures to call it a good day.
"Cathy and I got 18 for Dean (Hove), 19 for Laurel (Stinson) and six for Kim (Beise)," said Ron Goggin, after adding up the night's haul of signatures from Finrud Avenue and Hickory Street as well as a few other spots in their Ward 1 neighborhood. "I talked to two other volunteers that had just done Fern Avenue. They had 16 for Dean and Laurel. I don't know how many they had for Kim."
By Cathy Goggin's count, that was somewhere north of 100 signatures collected to recall Council Member Dean Hove, with just a few of the 19 volunteers in her ward reporting after three days of canvassing. That's of the 1,042 needed to recall Hove across two wards total, according to figures from the Minnesota Secretary of State's office. The signature requirement is calculated at 20 percent of the number of registered voters in those wards at the time of the most recent election, Nov. 3, 2020.
A separate group of numbers from Red Wing City Clerk Teri Swanson put the number slightly higher, at 1,086 signatures needed. The state and the city's numbers vary by as much as 44 signatures in the case of Hove's race, and as few as three signatures in Stinson's case. The reason for the discrepancy was not explained.
In any event, volunteers are canvassing their ward or wards seeking signatures to recall all seven members of the city council.
George Hintz, who is helping to run the recall effort across the city, said he's confident the group will be able to collect, for each council member, more than enough signatures to advance the recall.
Each encounter recalled
When Roxanne Johnson and Rachelle Lampman invited the Goggins into their three-season porch, there were more questions than Ron Goggin said he could answer. Not that he didn't know the answers, but state statutes direct that recall canvassing door-knockers stick to the subject at hand.
Goggin explained how the recall committee alleges that the city council members violated the state's open meeting law when it held discussions behind closed doors -- virtually speaking, because the meeting was conducted online -- when it decided to fire then-Police Chief Roger Pohlman on Feb. 19.
Lampman, who said her encounter with the Goggins was the first she's heard of the recall, listened and signed to recall Hove, who represents Wards 1 and 2, and Stinson, the city's at-large council member.
Neither signed the petition to recall Beise, who took part in the closed meeting on Feb. 19, but then voted against firing Pohlman.
"There was no good reason given to fire (Pohlman), and he was a great chief of police," Lampman said. "To up and fire someone because someone else wants it isn't right."
Johnson said she was shocked a police chief could be fired without his having done anything wrong, and she was further surprised it could happen to Pohlman.
"Something's got to be done," Johnson said.
One council member
If the public is shocked about Pohlman's firing now, Beise said he was equally shocked the week it happened.
The agenda from the city council's agenda committee -- made up of Hove and council members Evan Brown and Becky Norton -- did not indicate what employee was being discussed, and Beise said he didn't know it was Pohlman until mid-week. Furthermore, he said an email from City Administrator Kay Kuhlmann stated Pohlman requested the Feb. 19 meeting be closed, though Pohlman says that decision was made by the city without his input.
"I voted no," Beise said. "As a person who's hired and fired, and I look at the evidence that's there, I don't know why you'd fire the man."
Beise said there was no documentation in his file to support firing Pohlman.
"There's something wrong with this whole scenario, and I hope it comes out," Beise said. He added that after a name-clearing hearing held Wednesday, "I was hoping we'd be able to speak after that, even if it was just to say thank you, but they didn't let us."
The Post Bulletin left messages and emails with Stinson and Hove asking for comments, but those were not returned in time for publication.
Officially, the city has stated Pohlman was fired due to lack of trust by members of the city council, slow responses to emails or phone calls, and slow action on instituting new police policies the council hoped to see.
More feet on the streets
Hintz said that by Tuesday evening the group will have 60 volunteers trained for canvassing, with another 20 or so to be trained Thursday night.
"I feel that we can knock on the majority of the doors and reach our objective," Hintz said. "Some of the volunteers are coming to homes where no one is home. After the first pass, we'll come back to the homes where they've had no contact."
Hintz said the plan is to be organized and keep records of contacts with voters.
Monday night, the Goggins noted who wasn't home, who asked for more information -- the volunteers have pamphlets they can leave that explain the recall -- those who sign, and those who say no.
MORE READING: Red Wing City Council votes to fire Police Chief Roger Pohlman
In Ward 1 Monday, only a couple of individuals said no. The majority signed petitions, and most of the rest of the doorbells that were answered said they needed time to think.
Rich Lockwood walked down the street to catch up with the canvassing couple. After a brief discussion, he signed the petitions to recall Hove and Stinson. While the recall is technically about the malfeasance of closing what allegedly should have been an open meeting, Lockwood said that is simply part of a bigger problem with the city council.
"The biggest issue is the removal of a good civil steward to try to appease the angry mob," Lockwood said.