An Anoka County judge has ruled that Columbia Heights may continue with plans to hold a special election to recall City Council Member KT Jacobs.
Jacobs sued the city in an effort to halt the proceedings, arguing that a petition submitted by a citizens group seeking to have her removed from office was "procedurally defective" and behavior she is accused of fell "woefully short of malfeasance," a requirement needed for a recall election.
But judge Karin McCarthy denied Jacobs' request for relief "in its entirety." A recall election set for Feb. 13 may proceed, according to McCarthy's ruling filed Nov. 20 in Anoka County District Court.
Jacob's lawyer, Gregory Joseph, immediately filed an appeal.
"There is more than enough here to reverse the lower court holding on multiple grounds," Joseph said in a email statement. "We look forward to vigorously litigating this case, whether at the Minnesota Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals."
Jacobs has been in the hot seat since 2022 when she allegedly made a racist phone call to a council candidate. Jacobs repeatedly denied making the call and said a relative used her phone without her knowledge.
But an investigator hired by the city to look into the July 24 call found the call came from a phone number Jacobs uses for City Council business. The investigator's report also found that Jacobs had not been truthful during the investigation, that "she failed to conduct herself in accordance with the City Council Code of Conduct" and that she "failed to meet the City's reasonable expectations regarding respectful and professional communications."
Over the past year, the council has passed two resolutions calling for Jacobs to step down, but she has refused. That led a group called Concerned Citizens of Columbia Heights to submit a petition, leading the City Council to vote 4-1 in July to proceed with a recall election.
In her lawsuit, Jacobs contended that the petition did not meet nine requirements needed for a recall as laid out in state law. But McCarthy said those requirements apply only for elected state officials, not City Council members. Furthermore, McCarthy said requirements for recalling an elected officer of Columbia Heights fall under rules outlined in the city's charter.
"Since the requirements under sections 47-50 of the Charter have been met, the Court finds that the recall petition is not procedurally deficient," McCarthy wrote in her 14-page judgment.
McCarthy also wrote that Jacobs' actions met the three factors that constitute malfeasance. Those included being censored and removed from boards and commissions based on her conduct, that her removal from those assignments had an adverse effect on the rights and interests of her constituents and that her actions were "the doing of that which one ought to not do."
"Based on the record submitted by the parties, the Court finds that Plaintiff's actions are sufficient to constitute a finding of 'malfeasance,' " McCarthy wrote.
The next court action has not been scheduled.