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BE Council denies recall petition

Vote is 6-1 after hearing attorney’s opinion on the legal issues

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Apr 11, 2021

The Blue Earth City Council voted 6 to 1 to deny a petition calling for a recall election of council member John Huisman.

The decision came at the beginning of the regular City Council meeting last Monday night, April 5.

The vote was made after nearly an hour of discussion which included a report from an attorney and input from members of the public and the council themselves.

A group of citizens had previously presented the petition calling for a recall election of councilman Huisman. The reason given was that Huisman had violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution due to his co-signing a letter to KBEW radio station concerning removal of a radio program.

The letter to KBEW also threatened to organize a boycott of the station if the program was not removed.

At a previous special council meeting on Thursday, April 1, the council decided to postpone a decision on the petition until after having an independent attorney study the legalities.

At last Monday’s meeting, attorney Christopher Kennedy of Mankato, who had been hired by the city, gave both a verbal and written report.

At the end of Kennedy’s four-page report, he stated the members of the recall committee on this matter had done everything that was required of them to institute the recall of the council member, following all the requirements set out in the City Charter.

“The language of the Charter, however, is in conflict with the provisions of the Minnesota State Constitution that there must be an allegation of malfeasance or nonfeasance in order to remove an official,” Kennedy stated. “The allegations in this matter do not meet that definition ­- so the recall petition should be denied.”

Kennedy also stated he felt that if the council did accept the petition, councilman Husiman’s attorney could take the matter to District Court and Huisman would win a decision that the petition was not valid.

Mayor Rick Scholtes was the lone vote against the motion to deny the petition.

“I feel we need to follow our City Charter now,” Scholtes said. “And in the future change the Charter to follow the constitution.”

Kennedy had stated earlier in the meeting that in the future the city of Blue Earth should amend the Charter to include language that is consistent to the Minnesota State Constitution.

Before the vote was taken, several persons spoke, including councilman Huisman.

“I want to apologize to my fellow council members, the citizens of Blue Earth and KBEW radio,” Huisman said. “I made a huge mistake and error, and I am sorry from the bottom of my heart. Please, let’s all try to move forward and work together to help the city move in a positive direction.”

Former city council member and one of the organizers of the petition Dan Brod also spoke several times during the meeting.

“When I first read this letter it really bothered me and I thought what is going on?” Brod said. “It was a threat to a business and was part of the divisivenesss going on in our country and that is what irritated me the most.”

Brod also said signing the letter was unbecoming of a council member. Some others at the meeting agreed with that.

If the council had found the petition to be in order and approved it, they would then have had to set up notice for a special city election that would have one council seat on the ballot, the position now held by Huisman. Anyone could file to run for the open council seat in the special election, including Huisman himself.