Sie sind auf Seite 1von 15

Electronically Served

Electronically Served

8/30/2016 9:03:44 AM

8/30/2016 9:03:44 AM

Washington County, MN

Washington County, MN

STATE OF MINNESOTA

F f State of Minnesota — County of Washington Washington County District Court I L
F
f
State of Minnesota — County of Washington
Washington County District Court
I
L
L
Court Administrator
E
E
4:00 pm, Aug 29 2016
D
D

DISTRICT COURT

COUNTY OF WASHINGTON

TENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

Melissa Douglas,

v.

Petitioner,

Stillwater Area Public Schools,

Independent School District 834, et al.,

Respondents.

Court File No. 82—CV—l 6900

ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENTS'

MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

The above-entitled matter came for hearing before the Honorable John R.

McBride, Judge

June

of District Court,

on

24,

2016,

at the Washington

County

Courthouse, 14949 62nd St. N., Stillwater, Minnesota. Erick G. Kaardal of Mohrman,

Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., Minneapolis, appeared on behalf of Petitioner. Peter G.

Mikhail of Kennedy & Graven, Chartered, Minneapolis, appeared on behalf of

Respondents.

The matter came before the Court on Petitioner‘s petition for a peremptory

writ of mandamus and Respondents’ motion forjudgment on the pleadings or, in

the alternative, summaryjudgment. The Court took the matter under advisement

at the conclusion of the hearing.

Now, based upon all of the files, records, and proceedings, the Court issues

the following:

ORDER

Respondents' motion for summaryjudgment is hereby GRANTED.

Petitioner’s petition is hereby DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

The attached Memorandum of Decision is incorporated and specifically

made part of this order.

The Washington County Court Administrator shall transmit notice of filing of

this order and a copy of this order by the designated

e—filing and e—sen/ice

system, e-mail, or mail to every party affected thereby or upon such party’s

attorney of record, whether or not such party has appeared in the action,

at the party or attorney's last known mail or e—mail address. Such transmittal

shall constitute due and proper notice of this order for all purposes.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

JUDGMENT

'

BY THE COURT:

McBride, John (Judge) 2016.08.29 15:43:25

-05'00'

John R. McBride

Judge of District Court

Dated

Pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure, hereby I certify that the foregoing Order constitutes
Pursuant
to
the
Rules
of
Civil
Procedure,
hereby
I
certify
that
the
foregoing
Order
constitutes
the
judgment of this court.
Annette Fritz
CourtAdministrator
5
I
Date: i; Q
' “0
By

puty Clerk of District Court

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Background

While this case is brought in response to the Stillwater Area

Public Schools,

Independent School District 834’s (hereafter ”District") decision to close certain

schools, both parties have agreed that this case is [t about whether the District

may close schools. That matter is presently pending before the Minnesota Court

of Appeals. The only question before this Court, in this proceeding, is the proper

use of a limited amount of the bond proceeds following a referendum. Review of

the

District's

to

decision

close

schools is

not within

this

Court’s

authority or

jurisdiction, and is not and cannot be addressed herein.

On

February 6,

2015,

the District submitted

a

building

project proposal to

the Minnesota Department of Education for review and comment. (App. 4.) The

proposal was based on a report, three months earlier, by the District's Long Range

Facilities Planning Committee. (App. 109.) The Department provided positive

review and comment (App.

199),

and

on

February

19,

2015,

the School

Board

resolved to seek voter approval fora bond issue of up to $97.5 million to fund the

project (App.

161). The question was to be submitted to the voters at a special

election. In conjunction therewith, the District published

the

a description

of

project. (App. 2.)

It included, but was not limited to the following:

Marine Elementary

Playground Improvements

Renovations

Fees / FF&E / Contingency

'

$101,000

$25,000

$45,019

$171,019

Oak Park Elementary HVAC Upgrades

$1,100,000

Playground Improvements

$101,000

Renovations

$25,000

Fees / FF&E / Contingency

$438042

$1,664,042

Withrow Elementary

Playground Improvements

$101,000

Renovations

$25,000

Fees / FF&E / Contingency

$45,019

$171,019

The

District

also

published

materials

specifically

highlighting

planned

the

improvements to Withrow, Marine, and Oak Park. (App. 193,

195,

197.)

None

of

the documents referenced above mentioned

closure of any elementary

the

schools.

The referendum was held on May 12, 2015. The ballot question

presented

to the voters read as follows:

Shall the school

general

exceed

board obligation school

of

$97,500,000

to

[the

District]

funds

be authorized

in

an

the

its

to

issue

not

building

bonds

for

to

and

acquisition the acquisition

and installation of HVAC systems and various other improvements to

existing elementary school sites and facilities?

amount

provide

betterment of school sites and facilities, including

(App. 1.)

The

measure was approved and

bonds were

by the

District to

issued

fund the project.

Less than a year later, on March 3, 2016, the School Board resolved to close

Withrow Elementary, Marine Elementary, and Oak Park Elementary. (Mikhail Aft.

Ex. A.)

If

the

plan

is upheld

by the Court of Appeals, the previously—proposed

improvements to Withrow and Marine, and the playground improvement to Oak

-4-

Park, will

not

be

made. The other improvements

to

Oak

Park

w_i|I

be

made,

because that building may be converted to another use. (Hoheisel Aff. 1t 14.)

In their motion, Respondents

Analysis

have moved for judgment on the pleadings

or, in the alternative, summary judgment. When “matters outside the pleadings

are presented to and not excluded by the court,

[a motion for judgment on the

pleadings] shall

be treated

as

one

for summary judgment and

disposed

of as

provided for in Rule 56[.]" Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.03. Rule 56 provides: “Judgment shall

be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,

and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
and
admissions on file,
together with the affidavits,
if any, show that there is
no
genuine issue
as
to
any material
fact
and
that either
party
entitled
to
a
is
judgment as a matter of law."
Since the
District has produced
and
relies upon

matters outside the pleadings, the

District‘s motion will

be treated as a Rule 56

motion for summaryjudgment. Both parties acknowledge that there are no facts

in dispute and that the issue before this Court has been fully submitted.

In her Petition, Petitioner repeated alleged that the District was using bond

proceeds to close three schools: Withrow Elementary, Marine Elementary, and

Oak

Park

Elementary.

In

response

to

these

allegations,

Respondents

have

produced evidence by way of affidavit that Petitioner's allegations are not true

and that no bond funds are being used to effectuate the

Board‘s resolution of

March 3, 2016. Petitioner now concedes that the allegations in her Petition, that

District was spending

the

bond

proceeds to close schools, were unfounded. In

-5-

her Reply to the District's Affidavit and Memorandum, Petitioner no longer claims

that the District is spending bond proceeds to close schools. In her Reply, she takes

a

new line of attack.

Now,

Petitioner contends that closing the schools would

entail violations of Minn. Stat. §§ 475.58, subd. 4, and/or 475.65.

In her Petition, the only relief sought by Petitioner is the issuance by this Court

a

writ

of mandamus.

The

writ of mandamus

may

be

to

issued

any interior

tribunal, corporation,

board, or person

to compel

the

performance

of

a

duty

imposed by law. Minn. Stat. § 586.0l.

“The issuance

of

a

writ

of

mandamus

governed by statute.” In re D.F., 828 N.W.2d l38, l40 (Minn. Ct. App. 20l3)

(citing

is

Minn. Stat. §§ 586.0l—586.l2). “In order to obtain mandamus relief, a petitioner

must show

by

imposed

that

law,

defendant:

the

(2)

that,

as

a

(1)

failed

perform

to

an official

duty clearly

result,

the petitioner suffered

a

public wrong

Specifically injurious to the petitioner, and (3) that there is no other adequate legal

remedy." N. States Power Co. v. Minnesota Metro. Council, 684 N.W.2d 485, 491

(Minn. 2004)

(citations omitted).

“Courts

mandamus action

must demonstrate a

generally agree

clear legal

right

that a

petitioner in

to

have

the

act

a

in

question performed and must demonstrate every material fact necessary to show

the existence of the plain duty to act with respect to the relief sought." Mendota

Golf, LLP v. City ofMendota Heights, 708 N.W.2d 162, l78—79 (Minn. 2006) (citation

and internal quotation marks omitted).

“Mandamus is an extraordinary legal remedy.” ld. at l7l.

[A]

writ of mandamus should

perform

duties

with

respect

to

issue

only

which

-6—

he

compel

officer to

an

or

she

plainly has

no

discreTion as To The precise manner of performance and where only

one course of acTion is open. If The ad or duTy of issue is discreTionary,

The parTy seeking The wriT musT esToblish ThaT failure To perform if was

of

arbiTrary

To

consTiTuTe

clear abuse

so

and

capricious

as

a

discreTion.

In re D.F., 828 N.W.2d aT l4O (ciToTions and inTernal auoTaTion marks omiTTed). “[A]

wriT of mandamus does

noT conTroI The parTicular manner in which a duTy is To be

performed and does

Golf, 708 N.W.2d aT

noT dicTaTe how discreTlon

l7l.

is

To

be exercised.” MendoTa

I. Closing WiThrow, Marine, and Oak Park

PeTiTioner argues

ThaT

§

475.58,

subd. 4,

requires The

DisTricT

To

hold

a

referendum on ifs plan To close WiThrow ElemenTary, Marine ElemenTary, and Oak

Park ElemenTary. As will be explained below, ThaT is a misreading of The sTaTuTe.l

PeTiTioner also suggesTs ThaT The same sTaTuTe requires The DisTricT To improve The

schools as H previously proposed To do. Subdivision 4 provides:

The

proceeds of obligoTions issued afTer approval

of

The

elecTors

under This secTion may only be spenT:

(l)

for The purposes sTaTed

in

The balloT language; or (2) To pay, redeem, or defease obligoTions

and

inTeresT,

penalTies,

premiums,

and

cosTs

of issuance

of

The

obligoTions. The proceeds may noT be spenT for a differenT purpose

or for an expansion of The original

a

majoriTy

of

The

elecTors voTing

purpose wiThouT The approval

on

The auesTion

of changing

by

or

expanding The purpose of The obligoTions.

1 See ParT III. A. of This Memorandum.

This statute

does

forbid

the expenditure

of

bond

proceeds for unauthorized

purposes. However, Petitioner has not explained how the District could violate

subdivision 4 by not spending bond proceeds for an authorized purpose.2

Closing

the

schools would,

on

the

47565, which provides in pertinent part:

other hand,

potentially implicate §

If the contemplated use be afterward abandoned, or if any balance

obligations

the

of

proceeds accomplished, or if the governing body determines that at least 85

percent of the cost of the use has been paid or finally determined the costs of completion, the remainder of the fund may be devoted to any other public use authorized bylaw, and approved by resolution adopted or vote taken in the manner required to authorize bonds for

the

of

remains

the

after

is

use

and retains

in

fund

an

amount sufficient to

pay the estimated

such

new

use

and

purpose.

Any balance

remaining

after

the

improvement has been completed and paid for, unless devoted to

a

new

use

as

herein authorized,

shall

become

a

part

service fund of the municipality.

By electing

close three schools,

to

the District has abandoned

of the

debt

portion

a

of the

project authorized by referendum.

Minnesota

Statutes provide

for a

course

of

action when the contemplated

use is abandoned.

Minnesota Statutes do not

require the

District to make improvement to facilities that are being closed and

projects that have been abandoned.

Nor

Statutes require the

Minnesota

do

District to submit the decision to abandon part of the project to the voters by way

of referendum.

Petitioner has not provided any evidence which contradicts the

sworn

testimony of

Kristen

Hoheisel,

the

Executive

Director of Finance

2 Le, not making the proposed improvements.

-8-

and

Operations for the District, which indicates that any such proceeds will be used

only as § 475.65 permits. (See Hoheisel Aff. 1] l8.)

Petitioner believes that the District has a duty to improve all of its elementary

schools, because it proposed to do so. Petitioner acknowledges, however, that a

school district may make changes to plans approved by the voters, provided that

it does not spend bond proceeds for purposes that the voters did not authorize.3

Petitioner has not demonstrated that the District has failed to perform a clear legal

duty. As to the arguments above, therefore, Respondents’ motion for summary

judgment must be granted.

using

ll.

Converting Oak Park to a Central Services Facility

Petitioner also argues

that the

District would

violate §

475.58, subd. 4, by

bond

proceeds to make the previously—proposed

improvements to Oak

Park, because improving an Oak Park administrative building would amount to a

"different purpose”

than improving

the

Oak Park elementary

school.4 On

the

this argument would appear to have more merit than those discussed

surface,

above.

Minnesota Statute § 475.58, subd. 4, provides in pertinent part:

The

proceeds of obligations issued after approval

of

the

under this section

may only be spent:

(1)

for the

purposes

electors

stated in

3 The purposes authorized

contends. See Part II. C. of this Memorandum.

by the voters in this case are actually much broader than

Petitioner

4

Petitioner also cites

§

475.65. On this issue,

the

two

provisions

opposite sides of the same

are

coin—how bond proceeds may be spent v. how they must not be. Since the relevant language

475.65

(“It the contemplated

use be afterward abandoned

.

.

."l

of § impose a clear legal duty on the District. We therefore focus on § 475.58, subd. 4.

is

permissive, it does not

-9_

the ballot language; and

a

interest,

majority

of

the

or

(2)

to

or detease obligations the

of issuance

of

by

or

pay,

redeem,

and

penalties, obligations. The proceeds may not be spent for a different purpose

or for an expansion of the original

electors expanding the purpose of the obligations.

costs

premiums,

voting

purpose without the approval

on

the question

of changing

Under subdivision 4, the purposes authorized

by the

voters

defined

are

by the

"ballot language." This presents a crucial threshold question: What constitutes the

”ballot language"?

A. Ballot Language"

Petitioner contends that our inquiry as to what the voters authorized

may

reach beyond the text of the ballot question to related documents (particularly

those cited in the first paragraph of this Memorandum). Respondents, on the other

hand, maintain that “ballot language” means the language on the ballot.

When interpreting

the

a statute,

Court is

to give words

phrases their

and

plain and ordinary meaning.

N.W.2d 295, 300 (Minn. 20l5).

Engfer v. Gen. Dynamics Adv. Info. Sys., Inc., 869

The plain meaning of the term ballot language“ is

the meaning that Respondents propose: the language on the ballot. While there

is little law on this issue, this interpretation is consistent with State v. Trask, 193 NW.

l2l, T22 (Minn. T923), where the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to consider

campaign promises as evidence of the purpose that the voters authorized.

B. The Existing-Elementary-Schools Clause

Petitioner argues that the District must improve all nine elementary schools,

because to improve six rather than nine would amount to a

“different purpose”

that the voters did not authorize. Petitioner seems to have read the word “all” into

_

TO

_

the existing—elementary—schools

clause.

In

fact,

that clause

does

not require

improvements to g_l_| elementary schools, or to any one in particular. It is silent as

to which schools will be improved. Moreover, the argument that the District would

have the authority to improve nine, but not six, is contradictory. If the District has

authority to improve nine, it follows, a fortiori, that it has authority to improve six.

Petitioner has loaded the word “existing" with far more weight than it can

bear.5 A more important word in the text of the ballot question is "including." That

word signifies

that what follows

non-exclusive

list.

Hence, the

District may

 

bond

to improve

high school,

and existing

elementary schools, etc., but it may also spend proceeds on other projects that

are not specifically mentioned, i.e., “the acquisition and betterment of school

sites and facilities."

Th_at

is

the

purpose authorized

by

the

voters. Those

more

inclusive words, not the “existing-elementary-schools" clause, define the extent of

the District’s authority to spend bond proceeds in this case. Therefore, it ultimately

doesn’t

much

matter whether

the

improvements

to

Oak

Park would

be

authorized by the “existing-elementary-schools" clause as it is already authorized

by the "acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities" clause.

Even if we focus on the less inclusive language suggested by Petitioner, the

ballot language would

not preclude improvements to Oak Park,

as something

other than an elementary school.

The voters authorized the District to spend bond

5 The word

serves to distinguish

clauses earlier.

existing

elementary schools from

-11-

the

new one

proposed two

proceeds to improve existing elementary school sites and facilities.” Petitioner

agrees

that Oak

Park came within

that category when

the

election was

held

(Pet.‘s Reply Br.

i2), and, indeed, it M an existing elementary school or facility,

because it has not been closed.6 Therefore, the ballot language plainly authorizes

District to make improvements

the

to

elementary school or as a facility.

Oak

Park,

whether it

is

improved

as

an

For all of the reasons above, the District would not violate § 475.58, subd. 4,

by using bond proceeds to make improvements to Oak Park.

that the

has not demonstrated

District has failed

perform

to

Because Petitioner

a clear legal

duty

warranting mandamus relief, summaryjudgment must be granted.

Even

Ill.

The Relief Petitioner HCIS Requested

if Petitioner were entitled to a writ of mandamus,

the

Court has

no

authority to grant the relief that she has requested.

A. Holding a Referendum

Petitioner suggests that § 475.58, subd. 4, requires the District to obtain voter

approval in order to close the schools. That is a misunderstanding of the statute.

The statute does not in this case, and would not under any circumstances, require

a referendum. The statute forbids unauthorized expenditures; it says nothing as to

whether a particular expenditure should be submitted to the voters for approval.

6 The District's plan to close schools has been stayed since April

be closed,

marketed,

sold,

no boundary

i4 of this year. “[N]o schools may

be

changes based

on school closings

may implemented, pending the appeal." (Mikhail Aff. 1] 6.) It is unclear why Petitioner states that Oak

or

and

Park has been closed. (Pet.'s Reply Br. 12.)

_]2_

To

puT This

dnoTher way:

if if would

be unlowful

for The

Disfricf

To

spend

bond

proceeds for d pdrTiculdr purpose because ThoT purpose was noT oufhorized by

The voTers,

The

DisTricT’s duTy under subdivision

4

would

be

m—nof To hold 0 referendum.

To

noT spend

The

Moreover, if has been The low in This SToTe for well over one hundred years

Tt The wriT of mandamus mdy noT be used To dicTe

how discreTion should be

exercised. See Powell v. Carlos Twp., 225 NW. 2%, 297 (Minn. 1929) (ciTing Sfofe

v.

Town

of Somersef, 47 NW.

163 (Minn.

1890)). WheTher To seek The voTers'

opprovol in order moke porTiculor expendiTures is a decision commiTTed

To

The

DisTricT’s discreTion. See Minn. STdT. § 475.57 (providing ThoT The resoluTion To issue

bonds my provide for The submission of The quesTion To voTe of The elecTors”). l_f

There is To be 0 referendum, if is also for The DisTricT To deTermine wt The quesTion

should be:

In any school disTricT, The school board or board of educofion my,

dccordinq

To iTs iudqmenf dnd

discreTion, submif ds

single

0

bolloT

quesTion

elecTion

05

Two

sepdrdTe quesTions

The

noTice

of

in

more dnd bolloTs The proposifion

or

or

of Their issuonce for any one or

more of The following [purposes]

.

.

.

.

Minn. STdT. § 475.59. PeTiTioner would have The CourT ossume ouThoriTy Tt H does

noT possess,

and

violoTe

reams of published

cose

low

by Trenching

upon

The

discreTion of The people’s elecTed represenfofives ond dicToTing decisions Tt

belong To Them. The porfies dffecTed

by The

-13-

DisTricT’s

pldn To close schools may

have a remedy of the Court of Appeals, or at the ballot box,7 but what they seek

is not available in this proceeding.

If it were the case that the District’s plan would violate §

475.58, subd. 4, the

Court would issue an order requiring the District to comply with the law. But then

it would

be for the District to decide whether to seek approval

the voters,

from

modify or abandon the plan, or perhaps fund certain projects from other sources.