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Resignation Results in Rosemount City Council Vacancy

Update: The reason for Ms. Block's resignation and the legal petition involved are now addressed below.

City Council Vacancy

Rosemount City Council Member Tammy Block resigned her position effective immediately on September 6, 2022. Ms. Block's term was set to end on January 2, 2023. The City of Rosemount released a statement shortly thereafter but has since removed the statement from its website.

Ms. Block and City Council Member Paul Essler are the only candidates who filed to appear on the ballot this fall and two city council seats are up for election. This scenario is not considered a vacancy in nomination under Minn. Stat. § 204B.131 and Ms. Block's name will remain on the ballot. There are two likely outcomes. One possibility is that Ms. Block will receive more votes than any write-in candidate and will decline to take office again, in which case a special election will be held to fill the vacant seat. City Code § 1-5-3 was amended on July 19, 2022, to provide as follows:

Pursuant to M.S. § 412.02, Subd. 2a, if a vacancy in the office of mayor or city council member occurs before the first day to file affidavits of candidacy for the next regular municipal election and more than two years remain in the unexpired term, the position will be filled by a person elected at a special election to be held at or before the regular municipal election. The vacancy shall be filled by council appointment until an election is held. ;.) If the next general municipal election will occur within 365 days of the occurrence of the vacancy, then the special election will be held concurrently with the general municipal election. If the next general municipal election will occur more than 365 days after the occurrence of the vacancy, then the special election will be held before the next general municipal election on a date authorized by state law.

Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 205.10, subd. 3a, under that scenario the special election would likely be held either on April 11 or perhaps February 14, 2023. Within the statement that has since been removed from its website, the City stated that "[i]n all likelihood, the city will be required to host a special election in early 2023."

The other possibility is that a write-in candidate will receive more votes than Ms. Block, thereby eliminating the need for a special election. Unlike candidates for federal, state, and county office, a write-in candidate for an elective office of a statutory city is not required to file a form in advance of an election requesting that votes for that candidate be counted, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 204B.09, subd. 3. Therefore, all write-in votes must be counted.

Reason for Ms. Block's Resignation

During the City Council meeting on September 6, Ms. Block stated that during her time on the council, "the political arena has changed greatly." She discussed a recent incident at her home involving a physical altercation between her son, another resident at her home, and an individual who was attempting to serve Ms. Block with a legal petition filed by a Rosemount election judge, Bill Kieffer, and a former 2022 candidate for secretary of state, Erik van Mechelen. The legal petition is discussed in more detail below.

Ms. Block stated that "I never would have thought four years ago that a political extremist would show up at my home, not once, not twice, but three times, including at night, intimidating, threatening, and harassing me and my family. And I had hoped that if that were to occur and the City suspected it may occur, that there might have been assistance." Mr. Block went on to complain that the City contacted her by email rather than by phone to inform her that an individual was attempting to serve her with the petition. Ms. Block also said that the individual who was confronted by her son was treated as the victim within a police report and her son was unfairly characterized as the perpetrator.

As noted within this Pioneer Press article written by Christopher Magan, city officials, including City Administrator Logan Martin, "dispute Block’s characterization of the events and say they handled the incident properly." According to the article Mr. Martin said that "Block responded to the email and was aware someone was trying to serve her with legal papers. 'The other council members who were served received the paperwork without incident,' Martin said." This Star Tribune article written by Erin Adler similarly states that Rosemount Police Chief Mikael Dahlstrom described himself as "'pretty confident' that sending Block and other council members an email alerting them of the petition delivery was enough. He sent the email about 3 p.m. and Block replied that she'd gotten it about 5:30 p.m. There was no indication the man was agitated, he said."

The Pioneer Press article says "Dahlstrom said he reviewed the body camera video from the scene and said, 'I am confident that our officers followed policy and procedure. The entire case was sent to another jurisdiction for review and to make charging decisions for us in order to avoid any conflict of interest,' Dahlstrom said. 'Based on their review of the body cam and police work in the incident, all parties involved in the altercation were charged.'" The Star Tribune article also says that Mr. Martin reviewed the body camera video and "said the Rosemount officers 'had detailed conversations' with everyone present. What Block shared at the City Council meeting was inaccurate, he said."

Errors and Omissions Petition

The errors and omissions petition, made by Mr. Kieffer and Mr. van Mechelen pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 204B.44, was filed one week prior to the August 9 primary election and sought an order from the Minnesota Supreme Court holding that the City of Rosemount failed to comply with Minn. Stat. § 206.58, subd. 1, which requires municipalities to provide information about, and conduct a public demonstration of, any new voting system. The change in question involved an update to the software used by the ballot tabulators owned by Dakota County and utilized by the City of Rosemount (and multiple other municipalities). The petition was filed by Susan Shogren Smith, the same attorney who was fined $10,000 after fraudulently enlisting unwitting individuals to be plaintiffs in five separate election contests filed in Ramsey County in late 2020.

Within its response to the petition the City stated that it was not using a new voting system and that "[a] software update is irrelevant to the purpose of § 206.58, which is intended to familiarize voters with the voting process— how to complete and submit their ballot—and to avoid voter confusion when they go to the polls." The City further argued that "[t]he software updates provided through the County and its vendor and the provision of the wireless modem for reporting election result has not resulted in any change whatsoever to the voter experience, the way in which the voter completes their ballot, or the way in which the voter places their ballot in the voting machine. The machines and the voting process remain identical."

The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed the petition on August 9 on that basis of laches, a legal doctrine whereby a court may dismiss an action or other claim for relief when a petitioner or plaintiff has unreasonably delayed in brining their petition or claim for relief. Within its order the Minnesota Supreme Court held that Mr. Kieffer and Mr. van Mechelen "had actual knowledge of their claims for more than a month before the petition was filed. The computer expert upon whom petitioners rely notified one of petitioners’ declarants on May 27, 2022, that Dakota County, where Rosemount is located, was upgrading to Dominion 5.5-C and about the requirements cities have under section 206.58 when they use a new voting system. And another declarant in support of petitioners, in turn, received a letter on June 29, 2022, from the Dakota County Attorney, making clear Dakota County’s position that its use of Dominion 5.5-C is not a 'new electronic voting system,' and thus, 'the municipalities are not obligated to disseminate information to the public about a ‘new electronic voting system’ under Minn. Stat. § 206.58, subd. 1.' Petitioners can therefore be deemed to have had actual knowledge of all relevant facts needed to bring a claim by June 29, 2022: that Dominion 5.5-C would be used for the 2022 elections by the municipalities in Dakota County, which included Rosemount, and that the municipalities would not be providing the public the information and voter instruction referred to under section 206.58. Petitioners, however, waited over a month (34 days) after receiving actual knowledge of the information to file their petition."

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