It's back to the starting point for a Brooklyn Center group pushing to place an amendment on the November ballot asking residents if they want the mayor's job to be full time.
The city clerk this week disqualified a petition submitted by Citizens for a Full-Time Mayor, saying it didn't meet specifications spelled out in Minnesota state statutes. The group now has 10 days to refile a properly formatted petition and have signatures of registered voters verified.
"The whole thing was wrong," said City Clerk Barb Suciu, who notified the group in a letter Thursday. "They will have to start over."
Specifically, the names of the five petitioners did not appear on all 145 pages of signatures submitted to the city. The petition also lacked a notarized affidavit on each page, and neither the full text of the proposed amendment nor a city-approved summary informing those who signed the petition how city government would change was included. The petition included only a generic statement.
"Each of these items alone require my finding that the petition is insufficient under Minnesota state statutes," Suciu wrote. "The petition is not properly attested to, and all petition pages are invalid."
The city's Charter Commission had raised concerns that the petition didn't include a summary with sufficient detail when it was first submitted July 12.
"They were on notice there were concerns," said Steve Landis, a commission spokesman. "They were not taken to heart."
Though concerns remained, the commission, under the threat of a lawsuit from Citizens for a Full-Time Mayor, forwarded the petition to the city clerk after a July 26 meeting, Landis said.
The group collected 1,103 signatures, well above the 886 necessary to place an amendment on the ballot. State law requires the number of signatures equals 5% of total votes cast during Minnesota's most-recent general election.
But two city teams that reviewed the signatures concurrently could validate only 622 and 628 signatures. While those were not the final certified numbers, even if signatures had been collected on a valid form with proper attestation and the required information "it seems clear the petition lacked the required number of valid signatures," Suciu wrote.
Joe Mason, a spokesman for Citizens for a Full-Time Mayor, said the group consulted with the city clerk before collecting signatures to ensure the petition conformed with state statutes.
"We are shocked to have the same person declare the petition insufficient," Mason said. "We remain steadfast in our resolve to ensure that the voices of Brooklyn Center voters are heard on this important issue."
Under Brooklyn Center's current government structure, the City Council oversees the city manager, who is tasked with running the city. The proposed change would make the mayor full time and include responsibilities such as proposing the city's budget and supervising departments — duties that now fall to City Manager Reggie Edwards.
Edwards is the city's highest-paid employee with a salary of $155,000, according to a city document posted online.
Mayor Mike Elliott, who is up for re-election this year, is paid just over $13,000. Elliott has said he favors the full-time mayor proposal. But two challengers, including Council Member April Graves, oppose it. Another citizens group, BC Mayor Facts, has emerged to fight the proposed change to the city charter.
Brooklyn Center, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau has a population of about 32,000, is considered a "home rule charter city," which means citizens can adopt any form of government and modify the charter.
If a new petition is submitted by the Aug. 15 deadline, the city would have five days to certify it and send it to the City Council to craft language to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
That action must be completed by Aug. 26.