2/26/2018 12:46:00 PM Judge rules in favor of water & light appointee
Tenth Judicial District Judge Bridgid Dowdal ruled February 16, that North Branch did not follow state law when it removed Peter Schaps from his term on the water and light utility board. There was no “just cause” identified and there was no hearing or due process provided. Examples of just cause could be poor attendance or hostile behavior by the appointee, and Schaps never got the chance to attend a Water & Light Commission meeting.
The judge has ordered the city to put Schaps back in his three year seat on the water and light utilities commission.
City Attorney Vince Stevens says the city is considering appealing and the city disputes the judge’s conclusions.
Cindy Erickson, who accepted appointment to Water & Light about a year ago, must vacate the seat. Judge Dowdal also said there was legally no vacancy at the time Erickson was appointed. The judge ruled Erickson’s appointment “had no force and effect.”
Schaps filed a civil suit against the city in 2016 calling his removal several weeks earlier from Water & Light, illegal. (See Press stories June and September 2017 on motions and hearings.)
Schaps had been appointed in December 2016 along with other North Branch city appointments made for the coming year. But, on January 3, 2017, the ordinance spelling out who can serve on Water & Light was amended, and a new requirement adopted that water and light commissioners must be customers of the utility.
Schaps is not a customer-- he resides outside the urban part of North Branch, and uses East Central Electric Service and is not on the municipal water system.
His appointment then was immediately rescinded by the city council.