Attorneys count on authorized battle over Minneapolis police constitution change to proceed

After another round of court decisions and council meetings this week, the proposed policing change for the Minneapolis city charter is at the printer but that’s not stopping more legal maneuvering.

Tuesday, a judge’s order tossed out the wording of the public safety question, so the city council quickly passed a new version in the afternoon. The mayor didn’t veto it and the county sent it off to be printed in time for early voting on September 17. However, the legal back-and-forth is definitely not over.

It’s no longer just about keeping the Minneapolis Police Department or replacing it with a new public safety department. Now, it’s the wording of the question on the ballot, which keeps the battle going. The attorney for Don and Sondra Samuels, Norm Pentelovitch, says the latest version passed is still not clear enough for voters.

“Our clients – and we do too – believe it still does not pass legal, the test of legal sufficiency that was set out very clearly by the court in its September 7th order,” said Pentelovitch.

They’re asking the court to modify its September 7th judgment to encompass the latest version of the question just passed which, if granted, would keep it off the ballot. But the opposing side says this can’t be done this way.

“The court has the discretion to modify a judgment and an injunction that is entered,” said Pentelovitch.

“The court does not have the power to amend its order without the proper process,” said Yes 4 Minneapolis attorney Terry Moore.

Pentelovitch is also asking the court to stop preparing or distributing any ballots with the wording approved Tuesday. He says there are still so many details and unknowns not laid out to voters in the ballot question.

“What you’re voting on today, if you’re standing on that ballot box on November 2nd, you are voting on something that you hope will happen in the future with a city council that could be made up of different members with different agendas,” said Pentelovitch.

Yes 4 Minneapolis says all this opposition about the wording is just to keep the entire question off the ballot, something Pentelovitch says is not true.

“The petitioners simply don’t want the voters to vote on this amendment because they don’t like the amendment, that’s not the way it works,” explained Moore.

“I take some exception to the Yes 4 Minneapolis attorney saying it’s our goal to keep this off the ballot,” added Pentelovitch. “If you read our petition, if you read our papers, our goal is to make sure people know what they’re voting on. It’s unclear to us why ‘Yes’ has such an objection to that.”

The Yes 4 Minneapolis attorney says he’ll be filing a letter with the court Wednesday stating the group’s opposition to what is laid out in the letter the Samuels attorney sent in. There is mention that the issue could be voted on in a special election or a future general election. It is not clear if that’s actually possible.

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