Herald Journal, May 16, 2005
Judge halts McLeod redistricting lawsuit
By Lynda Jensen
The lawsuit to redistrict McLeod County commissioner seats was stopped Wednesday when Dakota County District Court Judge Thomas Murphy issued a summary judgement, meaning it will not proceed to trial.
The lawsuit, brought by Doug Krueger of rural Glencoe, alleged that a majority of the five seats are controlled by Hutchinson on the county board, even though the city only composes one-third of the population countywide.
Krueger has 60 days to appeal the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. He is unsure of what his next step will be, he said Friday.
“We just don’t know what we’re going to do yet,” he said.
“The heartbreaking part is that I couldn’t ask a jury of my peers to look at the facts and figures,” Krueger said.
If the suit proceeded, it would have caused both parties to prepare for trial.
At the heart of the issue is whether the board represents a fair reflection of citizens, where they are from, and their interests.
The larger influence of Hutchinson on the board took place in 1992 and again in 2002 when three precincts in Hutchinson were placed in three separate commissioner districts. Due to this, Hutchinson was almost guaranteed three votes on the five-member county board.
The reasons for this, according to court documents, were to reduce the number of election judges and to simplify the election process for Hutchinson.
The population counts accurately reflect the board seats closer than what Krueger claims, said Kevin Ross, attorney for the City of Hutchinson and City Administrator Gary Plotz.
Krueger failed to count the four growing townships around Hutchinson, those of Lynn, Hassan Valley, Acoma, and Hutchinson Townships, Ross said.
“It’s not nearly as skewed,” Ross commented.
“Township people don’t have the same needs and concerns as those in the city,” Krueger said.
The judge didn’t agree that there is a right to be rural and have representation in the rest of the county, he said.
“The judge found no constitutional violations in the precinct drawings,” Ross said.
In the summary judgement, Judge Murphy noted that “rural” people are not a separate class of people, which was a basis of the claim. “It is simply a matter of population and geography,” Murphy wrote.
Murphy noted that the majority of commissioners are from rural areas, residing outside of the city limits of Hutchinson.
According to the judge, Krueger failed to prove that the commissioners vote in such a way to benefit city residents.
In retrospect, Krueger expressed disappointment that his suit didn’t generate more public outrage.
His family has spent $60,000 so far, with $23,00 yet to be paid to the attorney, he said.
Krueger doesn’t have regrets. “I’m not angry. It was never personal,” he said. “I did this for the good of the county.”