Straw poll: Which applicant do you think will be selected by the City Council to fill the vacancy?


  1. rob hardy said:

    Giving a prediction rather than a preference is hard, since it’s difficult to know, without hearing from the current council members, what their personal criteria will be. So, for me, it has to be a case of “if I were them…” It’s hard, too, to chose without hearing the interviews, and going deeper than what is presented in the statements here on LocallyGrown. Based solely on those statements, I “voted for” Charlie Hayes. From his statement, he would seem to bring a different range of experience to the table (working for a significant Northfield employer other than one of the colleges), and he has a record of community service without (as far as I can see from his statement) any significant “baggage.” If it were my decision, I would choose someone like that.

    December 5, 2011
  2. john george said:

    If my choice comes out on top, I think I’ll go buy a Lottery ticket.

    December 5, 2011
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    You’re right, Rob. It’s harder than I thought.

    If David Ludescher would have kept his big mouth shut (Hi David!) about his opposition to the current plans for the Safety Center, I would predict he’d be the Council’s choice for the same reasons you cited Charlie. But I think they’ll want to avoid revisiting that issue.

    So I think they’ll go for youth diversity and pick Sean.

    December 5, 2011
  4. john george said:

    “Youth diverity?”

    December 5, 2011
  5. john george said:

    Good grief! Keyboard operator problems again! Meant to type Youth diversity.

    December 5, 2011
  6. Phil Poyner said:

    I’m gonna predict Jon Denison.

    December 5, 2011
  7. Phil Poyner said:

    Well, the straw poll is over, and that was terrible prediction! I think from now on I’m sticking to predicting weather!

    December 5, 2011
  8. rob hardy said:

    Looking at the results of this LocallyGrown poll compared to the results of the real council straw poll reminds me of how I ran away with the Locally Grown poll for school board a few years ago. Clearly LocallyGrown is an alternate reality!

    December 5, 2011
  9. john george said:

    Phil- Yes, I’m going to save my money and not invest in the Lottery, either.

    December 5, 2011
  10. john george said:

    Rob- It may be “alternate,” but, for me, at least, it is a lot more fun!

    December 5, 2011
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld Patch: Ivan Imm Selected to Northfield City Council

    Ivan Imm on Monday night was selected by the Northfield City Council as its newest member.

    Imm beat out Joe Gasior in the final selection with a 4-2 vote. Mayor Mayor Rossing and Councilor Rhonda Pownell dissented.

    Seven other candidates were eliminated through a straw poll.

    December 5, 2011
  12. I definitely think Ivan was the right choice among the final two candidates, and must say I’m surprised that there were dissenting votes. The Mayor in particular started off presenting herself as very neutral, so it’s curious that she fought that hard for Gasior.

    December 5, 2011
  13. Any thought on the procedure? I’ve been directed to this court case on MN Open Meeting Law, which addresses straw polls.

    Appellant argues that respondents also violated the Open Meeting Law by taking a written straw vote to narrow the list of finalists during the January 27 meeting. We agree. The results of the straw vote were not made public during the meeting, but were recorded in the meeting minutes, and were made available only at a later date.

    I’m not clear if they’re referring to the final result — which was made public during the meeting — or the individual results, which were not. In this case, the packet notes that the slips will be considered public data after the fact, but I’m not clear if the councilors ever identified themselves on those slips. Earlier in the same case:

    Secret voting denies the public an opportunity to observe the decision-making process, to know the council members’ stance on issues, and to be fully informed about the council’s actions.

    This does not change the outcome — and I really do think Ivan was a good choice — but I do hope the council pursues a different process when this comes up in the future.

    December 5, 2011
  14. john george said:

    Sean- You might refer to the link below for some clarification
    Although the council did take a 5 min. recess before voting, the straw pole was conducted in the public venue, not individually in a private room as alleged in the reference abpve. The public did have access to the voting members of the council during the process. IMO, the council did not violate the open meeting law according to this example. I could not find any specific references in the open meeting law statute disallowing straw votes if they are used as a means of expediency.

    December 6, 2011
  15. John:
    I don’t think the council was trying to sneak anything into the five-minute break. The issue is the anonymity in the straw poll, and by extension, that the individual votes were not identified at the time of the meeting. The Northfield News confirmed this suspicion with an Open Meeting Law expert, and Tim Madigan will be asking the councilors to identify their votes.

    I am absolutely certain that this was all in good faith — but it is clear that they screwed up.

    December 6, 2011
  16. kiffi summa said:

    Big dialogue going on in the attached comments to to the NFNews story on the candidate appointment ; the issue being whether or not the process was an Open Meeting Law violation.

    As I understand it, the relevant Court case ruled that each councilor’s vote for which candidate must also be revealed when the vote totals are given…

    I cannot understand notclearing the process with the City’s attorney ( I am assuming it was not cleared if indeed the process was a OML violation) .

    The NFNews reporter says the City Administrator, when asked about the lack of specifying each councilor’s vote, says something vague like they just didn’t think about it…
    Why does this have to become an issue between mostly anonymous comments, and the reporter for the NFNews?

    I would hope it would be cleared up at tonight’s Council meeting, by an administrator’s report.

    December 6, 2011
  17. Griff Wigley said:

    Another [sigh] udpdated version of the same article from the Nfld News contains more details on the open meeting law issue:

    A part of the process the Northfield City Council used Monday night to select a new member violated the state’s Open Meetings Law, according to Minnesota Press Association attorney Mark Anfinson. One of the applicants for the council vacancy, Sean Hayford O’Leary, questioned the use of straw polls in selecting the councilor-elect. That inquiry has led others to ask about the legality of the process.

    The process, which has councilors writing their preferences for the next seatholder on pieces of paper, wasn’t itself a violation, said Anfinson. But not identifying how each council member voted was. “Council members doing straw polls absolutely, positively have to identify how each person voted,” he said, calling the violation “significant.”

    The News this afternoon asked City Administrator Tim Madigan to have councilors go back and identify their votes. While that is expected to happen this evening, Madigan says he can’t force councilors to abide by the News’ request. “If they (the council) promptly identify their votes, then I don’t think it’s a serious or significant violation,” said Anfinson.

    December 6, 2011
  18. David Ludescher said:

    The whole process from application to appointment was a bit free-wheeling. Even though I was dismissed by the mayor 4 minutes early, I thought the councilors took the process seriously and listened attentively.

    December 6, 2011
  19. john george said:

    Sean- OK. In the open meeting law, there is this reference to voting-

    All votes are conducted by roll call

    What I was saying was that there is no reference either way in the law to a straw vote. The sentence says “all votes are,’ not “all votes must be,” conducted by roll call. It appears the above phrase is the only direction for voting procedures, as I found no cross reference in the law to straw votes, then the council didn’t follow it. The question I have is what purpose would have been served if each applicant would have been voted upon by a roll call vote? This just seems like one more pedantic thing to slow the decision making process, but I may just be missing something here. Also, the reference to the 5 minute break is just a correlation to the incident I cited, not any suggestion that the members tried to do something out in the hallway.

    December 6, 2011
  20. Griff Wigley said:

    Did the Council make public last night on how they each voted in the series of straw polls on Monday?

    December 7, 2011
  21. kiffi summa said:

    No, they did not make it public at the meeting. What happened was this: at the beginning of the meeting the Mayor announced that although no one seemed to be bothered on Monday night, during the day on Tuesday a ‘flap’ had developed, and the Councilors had gone through the voting slips, presumably identifying their own, and those would be available to be seen by going to the City Clerk.

    So… bottom line … the voting records were not announced, but were made available to be seen .

    December 7, 2011
  22. David Ludescher said:


    As far as you know, was there ever a resolution by the Council regarding how they would select a candidate? It sounds as if there was no public discussion about the selection process or the candidates.

    December 7, 2011
  23. kiffi summa said:

    David… there was public discussion about how the selection process would work, and several different methods were discussed, but when the actual voting process occurred and there repetitive tie votes, then there had to be a method to move forward.
    The City Administrator suggested alternatives: either going with the top two candidates who were definitely in the top position with four votes each, or voting on one from the second tier of three people who had three votes each, hoping to elevate one of those to the top layer, as the Council had said they hoped to have three finalists for the final decision making round.

    But when the three candidates in the second tier then tied again on that vote that hoped to elevate one of them, it was decided to just vote on the top two
    who had been in that top position all along.
    (sorry if that’s confusing; hard to explain without going completely step by step)

    So, after some discussion by each councilor on why they preferred a certain candidate, or how hard a choice it was to make, they finally voted, selecting Ivan Imm.

    December 7, 2011
  24. David DeLong said:


    I don’t understand all the fuss. This isn’t the first time the Northfield City Council has been faced with filling a vacancy. The ones I can remember are Jerry Anderson, Bob Stangler, Phil Hansen, Noah Cashman, and now Kris Vohs.

    This is the link from the last city council vacancy, when Cashman resigned. The Councilors and their votes are clearly identified.

    The memo included in the packet for the special city council of August 11 2008 meeting to interview candidates is also an interesting read.

    The memo was submitted by: Joel Walinski, Interim City Administrator, Deb Little, City Clerk , and Elizabeth Wheeler, Human Resources Director .

    It states in part:

    The City Attorney has advised that it is crucial for the Council to establish “ground rules” for the appointment process which will be followed during the meeting on August 18. The Council may adopt any ground rules upon which you agree are fair and reasonable. To assist in the process, staff has researched and proposed two options. Option #1 was used during the last council vacancy appointment process. This option was derived from a League of Minnesota Cities publication and finalized by the City Attorney.

    Highlights from option #1 include

    Ballot slips will be prepared with the candidates names, ballot # and the name of the council member who is using each ballot.

    In the event of a tie, the Council may choose to vote again, one or more times, to see whether the tie may be broken. In the event of a continued tie, the Council may choose to follow the method provided for tie breaking under the State election laws. The person responsible for declaring the results of the voting (probably the City Clerk), “shall determine the tie by lot” (i.e. by drawing a name from a hat.)

    This tie breaking option was omitted on the staff memo for the current vacancy. From reading the staff report for the current opening it would appear to me that instead of including all information, it was streamlined for the council. Two out of the three staff are the same. I also didn’t see any mention of the current City Attorney.

    Why wasn’t a possible tie breaking scenario adopted prior to the meeting, as had been done in the past. With six persons voting a tie is certainly in the realm of possibilities.

    The League of Minnesota Cities states this in their handbook.

    State law does not place any limitation on a mayor’s ability to make an
    appointment in the case of a tie vote. As a result, the mayor can appoint any
    qualified person willing to fill the vacancy even if that person was not the
    subject of the original appointment vote.
    Why not try that to break a tie?

    When the council made the appointment 3 years ago there wasn’t any talk about an Open Meeting Law violation.

    Did City Attorney Maren Swanson offer better advice than City Attorney Chris Hood?

    Was Administrator Walinski better at keeping his Council informed and safe from Open Meeting Law violations?

    How about the Mayor and Council? Did they pass on something safe and effective just to put their unique stamp on a situation?

    Maybe this time there was truth in the old adage “ If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

    December 12, 2011
  25. john george said:

    David D.- I think this sentence in Sean’s post 8.1.1 is what all the “fuss” is about.

    …The issue is the anonymity in the straw poll, and by extension, that the individual votes were not identified at the time of the meeting…

    December 12, 2011
  26. David DeLong said:

    My question was why all the fuss. I understand what all the fuss is about. The City Council didn’t follow the laws of the State of Minnesota.

    But why are we talking about Open Meeting Law violations when in the recent past, previous City Councils have appointed replacements without violating the law?

    The City had a problem this time. Something went wrong. If we don’t acknowledge a problem and fix it are we doomed to repeat history?

    The Open Meeting Law has not changed since the last appointment.
    The Administrator has changed, the City Attorney has changed, and members of the Council have changed.

    Why was there a breakdown this time? How do we fix it so there is no fuss next time?

    December 13, 2011
  27. john george said:

    David D.- I think you are touching on why one of the councilors stepped down, why the EDA is still short two members, etc., etc. Do you remember the process used to select Noah Cashman’s replacement? I don’t, but it evidently worked. It will be interesting to see if Mr Imms can bring some unity to the City Government, what with his previous experience.

    December 13, 2011
  28. David Ludescher said:


    I was appointed to fill Bill Rossman’s seat when Bill became mayor so I know what process was used then. It made sense at the time.
    1. Each council person could vote for as many candidates as there were less one. In this case there would have been 8 votes on the first round.
    2. The lowest polling candidate was dropped.
    3. The voting continued until there was only one candidate.

    I don’t recall that I ever knew who voted for me.

    December 13, 2011
  29. john george said:

    David L,- Ah, hah! Secret ballot? Straw vote? Caught in the act by self admission. Has our sociery advanced to the point that if something actually works, then it must be illegal?

    December 13, 2011

Leave a Reply