A petition to recall a Blue Earth City Council member that was spearheaded with the help of a former councilman was tabled during a special meeting held Thursday.
With the help of city staff and following the City Charter, Dan Brod and four other residents gathered 15 more than the required 250 valid signatures to seek a recall election of Councilman John Huisman.
“He’s a councilman and I don’t think it was a very good thing to do,” says Brod on why the group circulated a petition.
Huisman and 13 people — members of the county’s DFL Party—- signed a letter expressing their displeasure that KBEW was airing a program called The O’Reilly Update and sent it to station management.
Brod says that Huisman and the others attempted to censor a program and made threats to the station by encouraging businesses not to advertise and people not to listen.
Huisman violated freedom of speech and freedom of the press, says Brod, which are protected by the First Amendment.
“You can threaten people because of the First Amendment? I don’t think so, I don’t think it goes that far,” Brod says.
Huisman says he signed the letter as a private citizen and not as a member of the City Council.
“I did not violate the First Amendment in any way, shape or form,” he says.
Mark Hauskins says Huisman, who is a retired educator, should know better than to sign a letter that made alleged threats.
“This (letter) borders on bullying and it is not to be tolerated. You tell advertisers to pull their advertising, that is bullying in my manual,” Hauskins says.
In a letter to council members, Huisman’s attorney —- Thomas Anderson —- explains why the petition is not valid. He says state law sets out high standards for a recall election and the City Charter does not.
“Malfeasance and non-feasance must be found. It must be an illegal act, evil act or something that a person ought not to do,” says Anderson. “It’s the law folks. The letter is political speech. You are constrained by the law and just can’t do what you want.”
Mayor Rick Scholtes says the purpose of the special meeting was for the council to decide whether the petition is valid.
“Based on our charter, the petition is sufficient. They did their part and brought the petition to us,” says Scholtes.
City Attorney David Frundt told the council because of a conflict of interest, he does not believe it would ethical for him to determine whether state law prevails over the City Charter. He suggested they hire an outside attorney to settle the issue.
Council Dan Warner says the petition, like the letter to KBEW, would “create division and ugliness in our town.”
“I don’t support a recall election at taxpayer cost. My opinion on the matter is we let this go,” he says.
Councilman Glenn Gaylord says he felt being strong-armed and threatened by Huisman’s attorney to OK the petition without enough information.
“We’re working for the people of Blue Earth and not this attorney. He doesn’t mean anything to us,” says Gaylord. “He says you got to do this and our charter says another thing.”
Huisman made a motion to reject the petition, however, that was defeated on a 5-2 vote. Warner and Huisman voted in favor of dismissing the petition.
On another 5-2 vote, the council —- except Huisman and Warner — agreed to have Frundt hire an attorney who would be willing to handle the matter and possibly have an answer by the April 5 council meeting.