County Board seat remains empty: Allegations of politics made on both sides
For a third time the Goodhue County Board considered appointing an individual to fill the District 1 seat until a special election can be held. And, for the third time, the board failed to make an appointment due to the lack of a majority.
Even former interim Commissioner Scott Safe's offer not to run if appointed did not persuade the two commissioners who have blocked any appointment.
District 1, represented by Ron Allen until his death in April, has been empty for about two months and will remain empty until November or February if no appointment is made.
The special election will be held in November if two or fewer people register for the race. If three or more decide to run, the primary will be held Nov. 5 and the special election will be on Feb. 11.
District 1 residents at the County Board meeting Tuesday spoke-out against the possibility of waiting over seven more months before they have someone representing them at the table.
Amongst the crowded boardroom were leaders of various organizations and municipalities who wanted to speak to the issue at hand.
League, tribe speak
Tina Langton, the co-president of the Red Wing chapter of the League of Women Voters, told the board: "If we do not have representation we cannot have justice."
Nicci Lehto, the secretary of the Prairie Island Tribal Council, told the Board that "as a government leader, we need that voice. We're the largest employer in Goodhue County and we need that voice." She later went on to say, "Not having that voice there is detrimental to us, especially for almost a year."
Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse read a letter from the City Council requesting an appointment, and Rick Moskwa, the city Public Works director, explained that Red Wing needs representation as the city and county work together in the coming months.
In his statement, Moskwa focused on the Bench Street Landfill and the solid waste agreement that the county and city have been working on for more than a decade. According to Moskwa, the city has already put a $6 million bond out for the facility. If it does not receive waste and subsequent tipping fees for the facility, the city can't make the bond payment. Payments begin in 2020. There have also been expenses closing the landfill and possible expenses if it leaks.
"Now, I don't know how the board is going to vote, it could still vote and carry, but I'm not willing to take that chance," Moskwa said.
Safe nominated again
Once everyone who wanted to speak had spoken, Commissioner Paul Drotos nominated Scott Safe for the third time. Safe was chosen by Allen to fill his seat while he was undergoing cancer treatment.
Chairman Brad Anderson had seconded Drotos' previous nominations but declined Tuesday, explaining that unless Commissioners Jason Majerus or Barney Nesseth seconded the motion, it would fail due to a tie.
When the motion failed due to lack of a second, Anderson allowed Safe to approach the mic.
"I would be willing, on an interim basis, to fill District 1 until a special election," Safe told the Board. He clarified that he would not run in the special election if he was appointed.
"For this to go 10 months, unrepresented; I'm not going to say any more because ... I'd be asking for forgiveness."
When Safe had returned to his seat, Anderson asked Nesseth if Safe's proposal had helped him in making a decision about filling the seat, because one of the main reasons Nesseth cited in not appointing a representative was the possibility of creating an incumbent. Anderson continued:
"It was the one qualifying issue you've used since the beginning of this, that you wanted someone who wasn't going to run. If you say that's not the case, then I'd say it's totally political what you're trying to do. And if it's political, that's a sad day for Goodhue County."
The vote failed in a tie: Nesseth and Majerus opposed to the appointment, Anderson and Drotos in favor.
After the vote, Nesseth told Anderson, "This whole thing was a political move today. And, had you discussed it with me earlier, we might have gotten around this."
Nesseth said that he felt that it was a set-up.
The filing period for the District 1 special election opens Aug. 13.