In 2019, the cities in the watershed (most of eastern and southern Anoka County) were notified of the upcoming end of term for manager Patricia Preiner of Columbus. Because Columbus is among the least-populated communities in the watershed, cities like Circle Pines and Centerville sent representatives to Anoka County Board of Commissioners meetings to lobby for consideration of a list of nominees put forth by Circle Pines City Council. The board put off the vote until District 6 Commissioner Jeff Reinert was seated after the election to replace former commissioner and new Administrator Rhonda Sivarajah. But the vote, 5-2, was in favor of re-appointing Preiner.
“The city’s position is that the county must follow the statutorily prescribed procedures in the appointment,” said Attorney Shelly Ryan to the justices on Tuesday in St. Paul. “What that means is the nominations come first.”
The case landed at the Supreme Court after the city appealed a Court of Appeals ruling last fall that upheld the district court finding that Anoka County followed state statute.
“The challenge I think we’re having in this case is both parties claim the statute is unambiguous,” said Associate Justice Gordon Moore. “But both parties reached dramatically different interpretations of it.”
“The statute can only be ambiguous if there are two completely reasonable interpretations,” said Ryan in response. “The county’s interpretation is simply not reasonable.”
But Assistant Anoka County Attorney Robert Young argued the county did follow statute and considered the list, pointing out that the vote to re-appoint Preiner was not nearly unanimous.
“What happened is that the county considered their nominees and decided that re-appointing (Preiner) would give better hydrologic representation,” Yount told the court.
Circle Pines city leaders told North Metro TV they expect a ruling from the State Supreme Court could take as long as six months.
This follows a more recent decision by Anoka County Commissioners to re-appoint Steve Wagamon–who is also from Columbus–to the watershed board, despite a list of nominees co-submitted by the cities of Blaine, Circle Pines, Centerville, Lino Lakes, Fridley, Spring Lake Park, and Lexington.