Total recall

Red Wing residents fight to remove the entire city council.

A Google News search on “recall entire city council” ranks Red Wing in the top two because residents want to kick every councilor out of office — and these elected leaders are choosing to ignore their voters’ recall petitions.

The council voted 6-1 in May against a special election that could have forced them to update their resumes sooner rather than later. Councilor Kim Beise was the lone dissenting vote. He argues that the charter and state’s open meeting laws were violated during a closed session when another councilor broached a topic not related to that meeting, and that city residents collected enough signatures to force a recall election.

“It’s ludicrous that we voted on this,” Beise says. “We should send it to a charter commission.”

George Hintz, leader of the Recall City Hall Committee, says this conflict — the only one that pops up on Google in which residents want to recall their entire city council — stems from the dismissal of Police Chief Roger Pohlman in February. The council’s letter to Pohlman cites a failure to communicate effectively with the council and respond to citizens.

Hintz feels this is one of a handful of occasions in which the council decided city business privately, and violated the charter and the state’s open meeting laws in the process. And no matter the outcome, the fight is sure to drag on for most of the year, if not into next year and beyond, especially with city officials standing their ground.

Red Wing City Attorney Amy Mace delegitimizes the recall effort by claiming it doesn’t meet state standards. The councilors must be found guilty of three violations of the open meeting law, and no court has made that decision, she says.

“She’s wrong,” says Greg Joseph, the Recall City Hall Committee attorney. “Charter cities have a lot of autonomy.”

His clients, he argues, knocked on doors and gathered the requisite signatures to force a special election, based on the city charter. And Joseph has not only been in this kind of fight before, he’s won. Twice.

The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with him and his clients in similar cases in both Bloomington and St. Paul, two of the state’s five biggest cities.