Meeting violates conflict of interest?

Local News

A special meeting held by the Blue Earth City Council to consider whether there should be a recall election may have been improperly held and conducted.

Council members met last Thursday after a petition with 265 valid signatures was turned into City Hall last week.

Petitioners are seeking to have the council determine if there are sufficient grounds to pass a resolution to have a recall election for Councilman John Huisman.

However, Huisman’s attorney —- Thomas Anderson —- told council members he doesn’t know why there was a meeting.

“I don’t know who called the meeting. The City Charter says the petition will be voted on at the next City Council meeting,” says Anderson. “It doesn’t say anything about setting a special meeting.”

The petition alleges Huisman violated freedom of speech and freedom of the press protected by the First Amendment by signing a letter sent to KBEW.

In the letter, the councilman and 13 others were critical of a program called The O’Reilly Factor and said they would encourage businesses not to advertise on the station and residents not to listen.

During the meeting, Huisman argued that the petition should be rejected because there weren’t sufficient grounds to demand he face another election.

Huisman’s comments and participation during the meeting appears to have violated an elected official’s responsibility to avoid a Conflict of Interest outline in a League of Minnesota Cities information memo.

According to the self-judgment section, an official should exclude themselves from any discussion about themselves.

“On the theory that no person should serve as the judge of his or her own case, courts have generally held that an officer may not participate in proceedings where he or she is the subject,” says the memo. “As a result, council members probably should not participate in a decision involving their own possible offense.”

Near the end of the meeting, Huisman made a motion to reject the petition but it was voted down. He also voted a motion —- which was approved — to have the city hire an outside attorney to decide the petition’s validity to have a recall election.

The council is expected to discuss the petition at their next meeting scheduled for April 5.

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