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Throndson v. Rochester Post Bulletin

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 10, 2013

Jan Throndson, Relator,
v.
The Rochester Post Bulletin, Respondent, Office of Administrative Hearings, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Office of Administrative Hearings File No. 60-3025-30235

Jan Throndson, Rochester, Minnesota (pro se relator)

Mark R. Anfinson, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent The Rochester Post Bulletin)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for Office of Administrative Hearings)

Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.

WORKE, Judge

Relator argues that the administrative-law judge (ALJ) erred by finding that he failed to establish a prima facie case that respondent newspaper violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.05, subd. 4 (2012) by publishing articles about the incumbent city council president who remained on the ballot and won reelection after he died. We affirm.

FACTS

In 2012, relator Jan Throndson ran against the incumbent, Dennis L. Hanson, for Rochester City Council President. Hanson passed away unexpectedly after filing for reelection. Although desiring to remove Hanson from the ballot, his family was legally prohibited from doing so.

After Hanson's death, respondent The Rochester Post Bulletin (RPB) published articles regarding Hanson and how his death would affect the election. Relator filed a complaint with respondent Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) alleging that the RPB violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act by reporting on Hanson.

The ALJ determined that the reports on Hanson's death and the effect of his death on the race were not advertisements or editorials on behalf of Hanson designed to influence the election, but rather were "legitimate and important news" articles. The ALJ dismissed relator's complaint after concluding that it failed to state a prima facie violation of Minn. Stat. § 211B.05, subd. 4. Relator challenged the ALJ's decision by petitioning for a writ of certiorari.

DECISION

Relator argues that the evidence he presented was sufficient to establish a prima facie violation of Minn. Stat. § 211B.05, subd. 4. A complaint filed with the OAH alleging a violation of Minn. Stat. § 211B.05, subd. 4 must "detail the factual basis for the claim that a violation of law has occurred." Minn. Stat. § 211B.32, subds. 1, 3 (2012). The ALJ must make a preliminary determination for its disposition. Minn. Stat. § 211B.33, subd. 1 (2012). "If the [ALJ] determines that the complaint does not set forth a prima facie violation . . . the [ALJ] must dismiss the complaint." Id., subd. 2(a) (2012). "A party aggrieved by a final decision on a complaint filed under ...


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