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1986 Minnesota Session Laws

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                         Laws of Minnesota 1986 

                        CHAPTER 418-S.F.No. 2116 
           An act relating to elections; providing for removal of 
          certain elected county officials; proposing coding for 
          new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 351; repealing 
          Minnesota Statutes 1984, sections 351.03; 351.04; 
          351.08 to 351.11. 
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA: 
    Section 1.  [351.14] [DEFINITIONS.] 
    Subdivision 1.  [APPLICABILITY.] The definitions in this 
section apply to sections 1 to 10.  
    Subd. 2.  [MALFEASANCE.] "Malfeasance" means 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. 
    Subd. 3.  [NONFEASANCE.] "Nonfeasance" means the willful 
failure to perform a specific act which is a required part of 
the duties of the public official.  
    Subd. 4.  [MISFEASANCE.] "Misfeasance" means the negligent 
performance of the duties of a public official or the negligent 
failure to perform a specific act which is a required part of 
the duties of the public official.  
    Subd. 5.  [ELECTED COUNTY OFFICIAL.] "Elected county 
official" means any public official who is elected to 
county-wide office or appointed to an elective county-wide 
office, including county attorney, county sheriff, county 
auditor, county recorder, and county treasurer.  "Elected county 
official" also means a county commissioner elected or appointed 
from a commissioner district. 
    Sec. 2.  [351.15] [REMOVAL OF ELECTED COUNTY OFFICIAL.] 
    An elected county official may be removed from office in 
accordance with the procedures established in sections 1 to 10. 
    Sec. 3.  [351.16] [PETITION; REVIEW.] 
    Subdivision 1.  [FORM OF PETITION.] Any registered voter 
may petition the county auditor requesting a removal election 
and setting forth facts which allege with specificity that an 
elected county official committed malfeasance or nonfeasance in 
the performance of official duties during the current or any 
previous term in the office held by the elected county official, 
except that a petition may not be submitted during the 180 days 
immediately preceding a general election for the office which is 
held by the county official named in the petition.  The 
petitioner must attach to the petition documents which contain 
the signatures of supporters who are registered voters totalling 
at least 25 percent of the number of persons who voted in the 
preceding election for the office which is held by the county 
official named in the petition.  Each page on which signatures 
are included must clearly identify the purpose of the petition.  
The registered voters must be residents of the county or, in a 
removal election involving a county commissioner, of the 
commissioner district which elected the named county 
commissioner.  The signatures of supporters must be on forms 
provided by the county auditor.  
    Subd. 2.  [COUNTY AUDITOR'S DUTIES.] The county auditor 
shall examine the petition to determine whether it contains the 
requisite number of valid signatures of registered voters.  If 
so, the county auditor shall forward the petition, but not the 
signatures, to the clerk of appellate courts within 15 days of 
receipt of the petition.  If the county auditor determines that 
the petition does not include the requisite number of 
signatures, the county auditor shall deny the petition within 15 
days of receipt of the petition.  
    Subd. 3.  [REMOVAL OF COUNTY AUDITOR.] If the county 
auditor is the named elected county official, the petition must 
be submitted to the chair of the county board of commissioners 
who shall appoint a county official to perform the duties of the 
county auditor specified in sections 1 to 10. 
    Subd. 4.  [LIMITATION.] An elected county official is not 
subject to a removal election on the ground that misfeasance in 
the performance of official duties was committed, or on the 
ground of disagreement with actions taken that were within the 
lawful discretion of the elected county official.  
    Sec. 4.  [351.17] [CHIEF JUSTICE REVIEW; ASSIGNMENT TO 
SPECIAL MASTER.] 
    The clerk of appellate courts shall submit the petition to 
the chief justice.  The chief justice shall review the petition 
to determine whether the petition properly alleges facts which, 
if proven, constitute malfeasance or nonfeasance in the 
performance of official duties.  If the petition properly 
contains factual allegations of malfeasance or nonfeasance, the 
chief justice shall assign the case to a special master for a 
public hearing.  The special master must be an active or retired 
judge.  The chief justice may issue an order denying the 
petition if it appears that the petition does not contain 
allegations which, if proven, constitute malfeasance or 
nonfeasance in the performance of official duties.  
    Sec. 5.  [351.18] [WAIVER.] 
    An elected county official who is the subject of a petition 
under section 3 may waive in writing the right to a public 
hearing.  If the hearing is waived, the case must be certified 
by order of the chief justice to the county auditor for a 
removal election to be held within 30 days of the receipt of the 
order.  
    Sec. 6.  [351.19] [PUBLIC HEARING.] 
    Subdivision 1.  [TIME; SUBPOENAS; AMENDMENT OF PETITION.] A 
public hearing into the allegations of a petition under section 
3 must be held within 60 days after issuance of the order of the 
chief justice assigning the case to a special master.  The 
special master may issue subpoenas to compel the testimony of 
witnesses and the production of documents.  The petition may be 
amended of right by the petitioners at any time prior to 40 days 
before the scheduled hearing.  The special master may permit 
later amendment of the petition only for good cause. 
    Subd. 2.  [DETERMINATIONS BY SPECIAL MASTER.] The special 
master shall take evidence at a public hearing under this 
section and determine:  
    (1) whether the petitioners have shown by clear and 
convincing evidence that the factual allegations of malfeasance 
or nonfeasance are true; and 
    (2) if so, whether the facts found to be true constitute 
malfeasance or nonfeasance. 
     The special master shall dismiss the petition at any time 
if it appears that this standard has not been met.  
    Subd. 3.  [RULES.] The public hearing under this section 
must be conducted using the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure, 
unless modified in sections 1 to 10, and the Minnesota Rules of 
Evidence.  
    Subd. 4.  [LEGAL COUNSEL.] The petitioners and the elected 
county official shall be represented by legal counsel at their 
own expense, and shall pay their costs associated with the 
hearing except that the county may assume the legal costs 
incurred by the elected county official.  The county shall pay 
all other costs of the hearing.  
    Subd. 5.  [DECISION.] The special master shall issue a 
decision within 60 days after the end of a public hearing under 
this section. 
    Subd. 6.  [APPEAL.] If a petition under this section is 
dismissed by the special master, either before or after a public 
hearing, the petitioner may appeal the decision to the supreme 
court within 30 days.  The supreme court shall grant an 
expedited appeal.  
    Sec. 7.  [351.20] [DECISION; CERTIFICATION.] 
    If the special master determines that the elected county 
official committed malfeasance or nonfeasance in the performance 
of official duties, the case must be certified to the county 
auditor for a removal election on a date to be fixed by the 
county auditor and held within 30 days of the order of the 
special master.  
    Sec. 8.  [351.21] [APPEAL.] 
    An elected county official may appeal the decision of a 
special master under section 7 to the supreme court within ten 
days.  The removal election is stayed until 20 days after the 
supreme court issues a decision on the appeal.  The supreme 
court shall grant an expedited appeal.  
    Sec. 9.  [351.22] [REMOVAL ELECTION; DISQUALIFICATION.] 
    Subdivision 1.  [MAJORITY VOTE; FORM OF QUESTION.] An 
elected county official may be removed pursuant to sections 1 to 
10 by majority vote.  The removal election is a special election 
conducted under applicable provisions of section 375.20.  The 
question submitted to the voters must be:  
"Should ........, elected (appointed) to the office of ..........
          (Name)                                          (title)
be removed from that office?  
                                   Yes .......
                                   No ........"
Any resulting vacancy must be filled as provided by law.  
    Subd. 2.  [DISQUALIFICATION.] A removed county official may 
not thereafter hold the same office for the remainder of the 
term to which the official was elected. 
    Sec. 10.  [351.23] [EXTENSION OF TIME.] 
    The chief justice may extend the time limitations in 
sections 1 to 10 for good cause.  
    Sec. 11.  [REPEALER.] 
    Minnesota Statutes 1984, sections 351.03; 351.04; 351.08; 
351.09; 351.10; and 351.11, are repealed. 
    Sec. 12.  [EFFECTIVE DATE.] 
    This act is effective the day following final enactment and 
applies retroactively to any conduct which occurred prior to its 
enactment. 
    Approved March 24, 1986

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