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Crow Wing County Board change brings up constitution

A recommended change in how Crow Wing County committee appointments are made brought up references to the constitution.

Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan researched a question of the board chairperson making committee appointments instead of coming from a board motion. Tuesday Ryan recommended the board pass a resolution to reaffirm past appointments to avoid a question of whether they were valid.

Ryan was asked if the county board could delegate its authority to appoint members — to a watershed district board, housing and redevelopment authority board or Serpent Lake Sanitary Sewer District Board — to the board chair. The board members would then have to vote to over-rule the chair’s recommendation if they had a different opinion.

“The answer in my opinion is no,” Ryan wrote in a memo to the board, adding he believed the past practice of doing so should be changed. Ryan said in his legal research nothing was found authorizing a county board to delegate that authority to the chairperson. In his memo, Ryan stated it would be a better practice to have a formal board action affirming appointments when they are made instead of the chairperson making the appointments unless over-ruled.

“Then there would be no question as to the authority upon which the appointments were made,” Ryan said. Ryan said he didn’t want his opinion to be interpreted as indicating the county was doing anything wrong, but said a board motion handles the issue before a question is raised.

Commissioner Paul Thiede said it goes back to the constitution. He said if the county chooses to operate with the chairman making the appointments subject to an over-rule and that wasn’t challenged, he wondered why they were even going through the exercise Tuesday.

“Part of my job is to try to anticipate tomorrow’s problems,” Ryan said.

Thiede said the way the county has done the appointments hasn’t been challenged and he had difficulty seeing this as a burning issue.

Whether it was a burning issue or not, the county attorney was making the recommendation, Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said. Franzen made the motion to reaffirm the past appointments.

Thiede asked if that vote meant an institutional change so the chairperson can’t make the appointments. Ryan recommended going forward the board approve all committee appointments.

“I disagree with the necessity or the desirability of removing that from the operation of this county as we have done it for decades,” Thiede said. Thiede said if the board is just reaffirming what the chairman does, it’s another exercise in futility.

“And the people who watch government will say ‘What did you accomplish there?’ and the answer is ‘Not diddly squat.’”

Commissioner Phil Trusty leaned forward and asked what the board had accomplished in the last 10 minutes during the discussion.

“We could have made the motion and been on our way,” Trusty said.

Thiede said he believes in the constitutional form of government and sometimes it’s important to stand up for those rights guaranteed under the constitution.

“That’s why I’m belaboring a very minute point,” Thiede said. “... But I see way too many times when government infringes upon the actions of its people.”

Trusty said: “I don’t believe us making any motion as a board is taking away from our constitution. If anything that’s what it is.”

Ryan said, in looking at the legislation that creates counties, it is clear the county board is to act as a unit unless otherwise specifically stated. The board approved the motion.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter @Dispatchbizbuzz.

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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