You heard it first in the Beagle, and now it’s made its way to the STrib. Maybe this will get “The City’s” attention??? Maybe they’ll take the time to peruse and digest the Constitution?

I went back in the Council minutes to see how it was that they first did background checks, a little over a year ago, when the Council appointed a new member, and what I found was that they had a discussion about whether they should appoint or whether there should be an election, and they chose appointment, but there was no discussion recorded in the minutes regarding background checks. Here are the sections from the minutes:


There was also a letter dated June 16, 2005, from Jay Squires, from the firm hired as City Attorney, which addresses appoint v. election, and which did include a statement that, if they choose appointment, “An interested candate must make a written application on a form provided by the Council” but there is no discussion of background checks. Here’s that letter:


Then, suddenly the “background check” appears in a letter from City Administrator Kay Kuhlman, dated July 14, 2005, where she states:

In order to confirm the three qualifications, we are asking all candidates to provide staff with a copy of your driver’s license. Staff will use this to verify age and to confirm residency. In order to verify your voter eligibility, we will ask each candidate to sign a background check form. The form is attached (there is none attached in the council packet with this letter!). Please return the completed form to City Hall, attention Kathy johnson, by 4:30 p.m., Monday July 18, 2005. This is a simple background check process, done by a private firm. No results will be shared unless a voting right restrictioni is detected. If this occurs, the City Attorney will be notified and advise the Council.

Although this may seem unnecessary, the process we use will be followed for all subsequent elections. As we become a larger community, there will be times we do not know all candidates. To be fair, we need to follow the same process for all.

Really! That’s what it says. But I cannot find any City Council authorization for this — nor is there anything in the City Attorney letter regarding procedure — it appears to be staff driven. WTF? So now I’ve got to dig through this years Council minutes… zzzzzzzzzzzz…
Here’s the STrib article:

Red Wing’s checks on candidates ruled wrong

State calls credit, background checks improper.

Robert Franklin, Star Tribune

The city of Red Wing wanted the right to learn a few things about this year’s candidates for the City Council beyond age and legal residence: criminal convictions, driving records, previous residences, education, jobs and credit history.

The candidates were asked to sign releases for background checks to be done by a Lakeville company. Most did sign, even though the forms released city officials from any liability if the information was wrong.

But four of 16 candidates objected, and the checks were postponed pending legal opinions. And earlier this month, the Attorney General’s office sided with the critics, saying the city had no authority to collect such information.

“This is way beyond anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Joe Krueger, a former City Council member and a candidate for an at-large seat. “They wanted more information, quite frankly, than Raytheon Aerospace needed,” referring to his former employer.

Elected officials are not job applicants, said the attorney general’s opinion, written by Kristine Eiden, chief deputy to Attorney General Mike Hatch. “We are aware of no authorized government program under which it would be necessary or appropriate for city officials to delve into the backgrounds of persons seeking election to city offices [to obtain] information that would reflect negatively on their eligibility,” the opinion said.

Carol Overland, an attorney who lost in the primary election, said, “It was just appalling. … We don’t live in a police state.”

City officials say the background checks were supposed to be used by the city clerk to determine whether candidates were ineligible to run, based on such things as minimum age rules or felony records.

The checks started last year when the council appointed a new member, from a number of applicants, to fill a vacancy. It had planned to keep the information confidential.

But the Attorney General’s office also found that the city had no right, once the information was collected, to keep it private.

The results of last year’s checks were made public Friday and include brief reports on whether discrepancies were found in eight applicants’ criminal or driving records.

City officials said they were told by the city clerk that all the applicants were eligible.

Election candidates already file a statement saying they are eligible to serve. But Red Wing officials defend the idea of background checks, noting that some are required for city employees and volunteers.

“In today’s age, we really feel we need to not just protect the city but community members,” said Deanna Sheely, assistant City Council administrator.

Council President Stephen Castner said that, at one time, there were suspicions about the qualifications of a Red Wing candidate, and that a candidate for a Goodhue County office was found to be underage.

“Why go through the bother of an election?” Castner asked, if a candidate is ineligible and the election has to be repeated.

Asked if he still thinks it’s a good idea, he said, “I still think it is,” as long as its voluntary.

Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who supervises elections, said she’s never heard of such a practice. “In general I don’t think it’s a good idea for the government to be doing that to people,” she said.

Refusing to sign

The release form was handed out to candidates with other election materials, as in “here are materials, have a look and return them,” said Sheely, the assistant administrator. The release form says signing is voluntary, but candidate Krueger said he was told twice that he should sign. He didn’t, and got on the ballot anyway.

Some candidates took the attitude of “what have you got to hide?”

Overland said her background check could have found driving violations from her 10 years as a truck driver; her struggle to pay off student loans, and a house foreclosure when she was a law student. “Does that mean I’m not qualified for public office?” she said.

Before signing her form, she crossed out almost everything except permission to check on a felony record.

Robert Franklin â?¢ 612-673-4543 â?¢

©2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.


Here’s my Commentary from the Beagle, for some odd reason it’s not available on-line:

Oh, now it is!!!

City’s elected leaders and staff have betrayed the public trust

Carol Overland, Red Wing

The Republican Eagle – 10/22/2006

To the Editor:

Every city council member is sworn to uphold the Constitution. Yet Red Wing members display collective abject ignorance of basic principles, sitting idly by, or worse, voicing agreement, as staff act without authorization to conduct candidate background checks. One council member said, â??To me, thatâ??s the right thing to do â?¦ . I donâ??t see anything wrong with it at all.â?

The Office of the Attorney General has issued a formal opinion:

“We are aware of no authorized government program under which it would be necessary or appropriate for city officials to delve into the backgrounds of persons seeking election to city offices for purposes of obtaining information that would reflect negatively on their eligibility or qualifications for office â?¦ .

“Finally, implicit in the facts provided is the suggestion that ‘the City’s’ intent was to take some sort of action in opposition to the candidacy of any person it determined to be ineligible on the basis of information revealed in the criminal background checks. As a general proposition, it is considered contrary to public policy for the resources or authority of a governmental agency to be used for purposes of attemption to influence the outcome of an election for public office.”

That it even needs to be said. That the city doesn’t think there’s anything wrong. Remember the oath to uphold the Constitution? Where is the outrage? The right to run for office is fundamental. To go beyond statutory qualifications, to interfere, to appoint oneself judge of worthiness, to dig for dirt, this is intrusive, extreme and controlling. And then to divert, distract, discount and dismiss when it becomes public. Who do you think you are?

With habeas corpus thrown out the window, is it any wonder in these times of â??security concernsâ? that city candidate background checks is “the right thing to do?â? And given the ability of the government to detain and jail people indefinitely, and a political environment where challenging government is regarded as terroristic, or un-American at best, is it any wonder people donâ??t stand up to hold the city accountable?

Constitutional rights must be exercised; use it or lose it. Iâ??m not willing to accept that we live in a police state, and I will not acquiesce quietly Fire the lot of them, all the responsible staff. Terminate the city attorney contract. Vote and recall the entire City Council. Off with their heads.

Carol A. Overland
Red Wing

And an abbreviated (and anonymous) update from the Republican-Eagle:

City to release background check information today

The city of Red Wing announced Thursday that it will make public the background information gathered more than a year ago on City Council candidates.

Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said in a press release that she will release the results of the 2005 background checks done by Verified Credentials Inc. of Lakeville, Minn., sometime today to the Republican Eagle.

The city never completed background checks on the 2006 candidates, she said.


One Response to “Red Wing’s checks on candidates ruled wrong”

  1. Legalectric » Blog Archive » Voting Machines in Red Wing not working Says:

    […] KSTP TV 5 is sitting on the street outside of City Hall and have the lights set up on the darkened lawn. They’re probably on air right now, have been walking around town with a camera this afternoon, and just before sunset I saw Gary Iocco do a drive by. What’s the big deal? Supposedly there are two voting machines here in Red Wing that aren’t working, so they’ve special ordered them to be delivered Monday. This is Red Wing, home of background checks on City candidates and the AG Opinion that told them they’re dead wrong! This is House District 28A ,one that the DFL is probably going to take, so given that it’s Hubbard’s KSTP, the Mother of All Corporate Whores, KSTP which elevated the Hatch “Republican Whore” to pseudo-news status, now I wonder. A Stronger America – Minnesota is dumping “hundreds of thousands of dollars” into this state to keep it from going all DFL, and Hubbard’s one of the leaders. Now his truck is outside City Hall, and they’re saying our voting machines aren’t working… […]

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