City attorney Susan Segal was reappointed Friday with the support of all but two council members, who voiced concerns with her legal opinion that help solidify the controversial Vikings stadium deal.
Segal has served in the role since Mayor R.T. Rybak’s appointment in 2008. She came to City Hall after many years in the private sector focusing on employment law and a stint with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office under now-Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“She could be working anywhere else, making 10 times the money and not dealing with half of the grief she has to deal with here,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman, one of 11 supporters of Segal’s reappointment.
Opponents of her reappointment, which included the local chapter of the Minnesota Lawyers Guild, were critical of an opinion Segal authored that helped secure crucial council support for the Vikings stadium. The opinion said the city’s financing scheme for the stadium did not trigger a referendum requirement in the charter, an assertion that was later refuted by a district court judge.
The council’s crucial stadium swing vote, Sandy Colvin Roy, cited that opinion as a major reason why she reversed course and supported the project.
“I wish that that had been handled better,” said council member Cam Gordon, who opposed the reappointment. “I think it’s really important, especially when we have really difficult and challenging decisions, to get the best, most neutral, most detached legal advice that we possibly can. And I’m not sure that we got that in that instance.”
New Council Member Alondra Cano said she was voting for the reappointment because she wanted to be able to work with Segal on a number of issues.
“I do not feel like I need to hold anyone hostage to the Vikings stadium decision,” Cano said. “I think that was of the previous council and I will not drag that into this particular decision.”
The other ‘no’ vote, council member Blong Yang, said reappointment votes should not be based on future relationships. “I’d like to say a yes or no vote should just mean a good relationship in the future anyway,” Yang said.
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden highlighted Segal’s worth early in her tenure defending the city’s ranked-choice voting system, as well as efforts to reform pensions.
Mayor Betsy Hodges, who opposed the stadium as a council member, said Segal has found innovative ways to reduce crime in the city. She cited a domestic violence prosecution partnership, youth violence prevention initiatives and the Downtown 100 program.
“Having that kind of innovation, creativity and forward thinking in the city attorney is not something every city gets, but our city has benefited from for years,” Hodges said.