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Wanted: City Council members

By Staff | May 23, 2010

Filling the two empty chairs at the council table was the first topic of conversation at last Monday’s Blue Earth City Council meeting.

The recent death of Dick Maher, and resignation of Rick Scholtes, had the remaining four councilmen and the mayor questioning what the procedure for replacing the two men should be.

After hearing a report from City Attorney David Frundt, the council decided to use two different tactics to fill the seats.

Because Maher’s term would have expired at the end of this year, the council decided to use this coming November’s election to fill the spot.

Whoever is elected to the council position would take office at the first meeting in January, 2011.

With Rick Scholtes’ Ward 3 seat, however, the council decided to appoint a replacement – even though it also will be listed on the November ballot.

Scholtes term has more than two years remaining, so Frundt says the council needs to either appoint a person, or hold a special election to fill it.The decision was to advertise the position as open, and interview anyone who applies at the next council meeting, on June 7.

A decision and appointment could be made that evening.

The person selected would serve until the end of the year. The position will also be put on the November ballot, and persons interested, including the one appointed on June 7, will be able to run for the seat at that time.

They would assume office in January.

On the November ballot, Maher’s Ward 1 seat would be for four years, while the Scholtes Ward 3 seat would be a two-year term.

The seats currently held by Les Wiborg (Ward 2) and Dan Brod (Ward 3) will also be on the ballot in November.

The question concerning council seats was not the only one posed to the city attorney at Monday’s meeting.

Councilman John Huisman proposed a new policy for councilmen to be able to contact the attorney on their own, and not go through the city administrator.

“If three councilmen feel there is an issue that the city attorney should look into, I think we should be able to do so,” Huisman says.

Current policy calls for council members to bring the issue to the city administrator, who will take it to the city attorney, if necessary.

“The issue may have to do with the city administrator,” Huisman says. “That would make it awkward to first bring it to her office.”

Several council members questioned if having three councilmen get together to discuss an issue would be a violation of the open meeting law.

Attorney Frundt agreed it could be, and says he will look into the matter further and report back at the next council meeting.

The attorney was given a third chore at Monday’s meeting.

The council studied two ‘social host’ ordinances, and instructed Frundt to use one of them to create a similar ordinance for Blue Earth.

The ordinance would allow police to charge parents or other adults who host a party in their home where underage youth are served alcohol.

The ordinance was proposed by Councilman Huisman, who called it “another tool in the police toolbox.”

Council member Glenn Gaylord asked if this meant a parent could be arrested for giving their teenager a glass of wine with dinner.

“No,” Huisman answered. “This is geared towards those who allow their children to have a party, whether they are there or not, and serve alcohol to others. It is a serious problem here and elsewhere.”