- New Brighton held municipal elections in November, 2015, as per usual. In that election, the sitting mayor, Dave Jacobsen, was defeated in a three-way contest by a newcomer, Val Johnson. Two city council members, Mary Burg and Paul Jacobsen (no relation to the outgoing mayor), were reelected to office. Two other city council members, Gina Bauman and Brian Strub, were not up for election.
- Under the city laws in place at the time, Johnson earned a two-year term as mayor, while Burg and Paul Jacobsen earned four year terms. Bauman and Strub, who were elected in 2013, would continue in position until 2017.
- Bauman, who had unsuccessfully run for mayor in 2015, has generally disagreed with her fellow council members over policy approaches. She has generally supported keeping taxes low and municipal spending to a minimum. The other members of the council like to spend money.
- At the regularly scheduled city council meeting in November, council member Strub introduced a new ordinance that would change the election cycle from the odd-number year cycle it has been on to an even-numbered year cycle, to coincide with state and national elections. The effective import of the change was to shorten the four year terms of Bauman and Strub to three years, and to extend the term of incoming mayor Johnson's term to three years, meaning elections that would have taken place in 2017 would now take place in 2016. The ordinance, which had received no public notice before Strub introduced it, was passed 3-2, with Bauman and outgoing mayor Dave Jacobsen in opposition.
Fast forward to April. Bauman, who continued to oppose the change, asked the city attorney of New Brighton to research whether a petition could be brought forth to put the election change to a referendum. The other members of the council, working in concert with City Manager, Dean Lotter, voted to censure Bauman for her impertinence in questioning their wisdom. They then went even further, removing Bauman from the local government commissions she served on as part of her city council duties. They also forced the city attorney to resign for taking Bauman's call.
Bauman, undeterred, then subsequently submitted the petition to the council at their May meeting, which the rest of the council summarily rejected, claiming it did not conform to state statute. More importantly, they did not allow Bauman to correct the error they claimed the petition had, thus killing the petition. The municipal government then went on its merry way and began work on putting the election for Bauman and Strub's seats on the ballot for this year.
The issue went to court and a Ramsey County judge ruled on the matter this week. We'll discuss what happened in greater detail tomorrow, but let's just say this -- it didn't go well for the City Council.