New Brighton’s City Council election were canceled August 25th following a court decision ruling that a switch in election years was illegal under state law.
Ramsey County District Court Judge Lezlie Ott Marek ruled that the change in council members’ terms was illegal, reports the Star Tribune. The case started with the city council’s decision to switch elections from odd to even years following the 2015 elections. The problem with state law arises in that such changes are only allowed to be made from January to June.
New Brighton City Council Member Gina Bauman was the lone dissenter to the changes in 2015, which also included extending the mayor’s term by a year, and shortening city council members’ terms, reports the Star Tribune.
“We fought hard and we won but most people had never heard of it, let alone the process,” Bauman said, “I believe that this is about honesty transparency and accountability from elected officials so I’m hoping that that will now be something that we can move forward with
Bauman filed a formal petition to put the changes to a referendum, but the city rejected it saying she did not follow the proper requirements, reports the Sun Focus. Marek also ruled that the city was wrong in rejecting Bauman’s petition.
Bauman and New Brighton resident Susan Erickson went to court in August to challenge the changes, reports the Star Tribune. Proceedings lasted about an hour for the full case.
“The judge found that Gina and (Susan Erickson) were right on every issue and the city was wrong on every issue, so yeah, we were pleased,” Daniel Reiff, Bauman and Erickson’s attorney told the Pioneer Press.
New Brighton Mayor Valerie Johnson told the Pioneer Press that the goal was to increase voter turnout by having elections match up with most of the rest of the state. She is unsure if the council will reconsider the issue in the legislative process going forward.
“We’re disappointed in the ruling,” Johnson said, “I’m really not at liberty to say anything else because we still have not decided whether or not we will be appealing that ruling.”
Johnson’s view is both contradicted and condemned by Bauman however.
“They’re not going to appeal. We’ve already received a letter from the city attorney knowing they are not appealing this decision,” Bauman said, “I do believe also that it would be wrong to take taxpayer dollars to sue the taxpayers. This is a taxpayers’ case. I think she shouldn’t be saying something like that. I think that’s wrong, as trying to be somebody in leadership for our city, and she doesn’t speak for everyone.”
The Secretary of State’s office has removed the New Brighton city council elections from the ballot, reports the Star Tribune. The next such elections will now be held in 2017.