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Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Anoka Hennepin School District

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 23, 2013

Minnesota Voters Alliance, et al., Relators,
v.
Anoka Hennepin School District, Respondent, State of Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Office of Administrative Hearings File No. 8-0325-030140

Erick G. Kaardal, Mohrman & Kaardal, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for relators)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Paul Cady, Anoka-Hennepin School District, Anoka, Minnesota; and Jeanette M. Bazis, Katherine M. Swenson, Greene Espel PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents)

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge. [*]

HALBROOKS, Judge

Relators challenge a decision of an administrative-law judge (ALJ) dismissing as untimely their complaint against respondent school district that alleged violations of the Minnesota Campaign Financial Reports Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 211A.01-.14 (2012), and the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 211B.01-.37 (2012). Because relators' financial-reporting claim under Minn. Stat. § 211A.02 was timely, we reverse and remand for further proceedings with respect to that claim. We affirm the ALJ's dismissal of the false-statement claim under Minn. Stat. § 211B.06.

FACTS

Respondent Anoka Hennepin School District (the school district) is funded in part by levies approved by voters in the district. In 2010, in recognition of the likelihood of flat or declining state funding, shifting legislative priorities, decreased revenue, and the impending expiration of an existing levy, the school district created a committee of residents and educators to recommend options to the school board. The committee delivered its final report in June 2011.

Following its review of the committee's report, the school board unanimously passed a resolution to present three levy-funding questions to voters in the election on November 8, 2011. The ballot questions asked voters whether to (1) renew an existing levy providing $1, 044 per student per year for the next ten years; (2) approve a levy of $3 million each year for ten years for technology; and (3) approve a levy of $12 million per year for ten years as a stop-gap measure if the legislature fails to approve inflationary funding.

In September 2011, the school district held two public meetings to address the ballot questions. The school district also created a brochure to inform voters about the ballot questions and the effects of approving or rejecting each levy. The school district hired a company to print and mail the brochures to all addresses in the district.

The printing company completed work on the brochures on October 27, 2011. The school district posted an electronic version of the brochure on its website the same day. On October 31, 2011, the printing company mailed brochures to the 81, 235 addresses in the district. In total, the school district spent $15, 935.13 associated with printing and mailing the brochure.

On November 2, 2012, relators Minnesota Voters Alliance and Donald Huizenga filed a complaint with respondent Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), asserting that the school district violated Minn. Stat. § 211A.02 by failing to report the expenditures associated with printing and mailing the brochure and Minn. Stat. § 211B.06 by making false statements in the brochure.

The school district moved for summary disposition, arguing that (1) the school district's brochure expenditures were not subject to the finance-reporting requirements of section 211A.02 because the brochure did not "promote" passage or defeat of any ballot question and (2) the one-year limitations period on relators' false-statement claim under section 211B.06 had run. On cross-motion for summary disposition, relators ...


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