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S.F. No. 539 - Authorizing Removal Elections for School Board Members
 
Author: Senator Terri E. Bonoff
 
Prepared By: Alexis C. Stangl, Senate Counsel (651/296-4397)
 
Date: March 4, 2015



 

S.F. No. 539 allows for removal elections for school board members. The bill expands the current removal election process for county officials to include school board members.

Section 1 changes the term “elected county official” to “elected local official” and defines the new term to include school board members.

Section 2 provides a definition for the filing official.

Section 3 makes conforming changes.

Section 4 specifies that for removal elections for countywide offices, the voter must be a resident of the county; in a removal election for a county commissioner, the voter must be a resident of the commissioner district; and in a removal election for a school board member, the voter must be a resident of the school district. Conforming changes are made.

Section 5 replaces references to the county auditor with references to the filing official.

Sections 6, 7, and 8 make conforming changes.

Section 9 specifies that in a removal election for a school board member, the school board is responsible for certain costs of the hearing.

Sections 10, 11, 12, and 13 make conforming changes.

Section 14 repeals section 123B.09, subdivision 9 (removal of a school board member for proper cause), and section 128D.14 (specifying that section 123B.09, subdivision 9, does not apply to the Minneapolis School District).

Background

Minnesota statutes, sections 351.14 to 351.23 provide a process for removal of elected county officials. These sections are amended by the bill so that the existing provisions apply to both elected county officials and school board members. The removal process in current law is outlined briefly below.

An elected county official may be removed from office for malfeasance or nonfeasance in the performance of official duties.  Malfeasance is defined as “the willful commission of an unlawful or wrongful act in the performance of a public official's duties which is outside the scope of the authority of the public official and which infringes on the rights of any person or entity.” Nonfeasance is defined as “the willful failure to perform a specific act which is a required part of the duties of the public official.”

The removal process is started by a registered voter petitioning the county auditor requesting the removal election. The petition must state the facts which allege that the elected county official committed malfeasance or nonfeasance in the performance of official duties. The petition must be signed by voters totaling at least 25 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last election for the county office in question. Then the county auditor reviews the petition to determine if it is sufficient.  If so, the county auditor forwards the petition to the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, who submits it to the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.

The Chief Justice reviews the petition to determine if the petition alleges facts that, if proven, would constitute malfeasance or nonfeasance. If so, the Chief Justice assigns the case to a special master for a public hearing. A public hearing is held and evidence must be taken at the hearing. The elected county official may waive the right to the hearing. After the hearing, the special master issues an opinion. If the special master determines that the elected county official committed malfeasance or nonfeasance in the performance of official duties, the case is certified to the county auditor to set a date for a removal election. The elected county official may appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.  At the election, if a majority votes to remove the elected county official, he or she is removed from office.

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