Reuther plots dissenting path on rental order – Park Rapids Enterprise

Nevis City Council member Blair Reuther broke with other council members at their April 14 workshop to reconsider the city’s rental ordinance.

Reuther was appointed to the board in September 2021, after the ordinance passed July 12.

At Thursday’s meeting, he said that when he read the prescription, he was so angry that he threw it in the trash. He listed four problems with this.

First, he said, the order gives property owners a choice between consenting to a warrantless search of their property or facing fines and criminal prosecution.

Second, Reuther noted that the ordinance gives the city the power to force a tenant’s eviction after law enforcement is called to the unit three times. “You say we can appeal, but it still gives the city that authority,” he said.

Third, he said the ordinance enacted “collective punishment” against tenants and landlords in the form of fines, which he called additional taxes.

Fourth, he said, it authorizes the city to deprive tenants of their homes and landlords of their livelihoods without the due process required for a criminal conviction.

In response to the first point, Mayor Jeanne Thompson said state law allows property owners to enter and inspect property they own, with proper notice, and upholds ordinances on the rentals that allow local governments to inspect rental properties. “It’s not an illegal search and seizure,” she said. “There are laws that allow this.

Reuther argued that these were “administrative searches” whose legality is questionable. “It’s all debatable,” Thompson said.

Council member Sue Gray said all city ordinances are subject to legal review before being enacted.

“So there’s nothing about them that’s illegal because the city wouldn’t put themselves in that position,” Thompson said.

“The only reason they’re not illegal yet is that they haven’t been to court with this city,” Reuther said, noting that orders have been challenged in other cities across the country.

“Where they are respected,” Thompson said.

Reuther said he has a list of cases in other states where the order has not been followed. “We are creating another law,” he said. “We are adopting something in a country that is run by lawyers. It’s always, ‘Oh, now we have to go to court.’

Regarding fines, Thompson asked, if there is no incentive to do the right thing, will people do the right thing?

She said if a violation is found during an inspection, the landlord is given 60 days notice to bring the property into compliance. If landlords don’t respond to a notice, she said, the charges are a misdemeanor and the fines are relatively small.

“I would always side with the owners in that case,” Reuther said, “that it would be up to them to determine … their business and how they run it.”

Gray said she checked legal cases regarding rental orders, including one in Minnesota that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the order was upheld as correct.

“Their prescription,” Reuther said. “Have we matched theirs?

Gray said the case involved a question about the legality of requiring an inspection.

Reuther noted that no one came to the workshop to support the ordinance and asked how many signatures on a petition to repeal it would be needed.

Gray said she knew Reuther was circulating a petition and asked how many signatures he had and whether they were landlords, tenants or other residents.

“And you, as a member of the city council, start a petition in the community to get rid of this ordinance,” she said. “How dare you? You don’t do that.

“We don’t do activism,” Thompson said.

“If you want something to do, I’ll give you something to do,” Reuther said. “Is there a law I can’t work with voters?”

Gray said the petition was not kosher.

“Based on what law? said Reuther.

“The Ethics Law,” Gray said.

“Give it to me, write it down,” Reuther said, going on to claim that rental inspections violate the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

“Your job in this role is to gather information from members of this community and represent it here,” Thompson said, “not to go after it; not go out and stir to bring back. … Again, your job is to represent not just the people of the city, but the interests of the whole city; not just selecting people.

Nevis resident Jeff Stacey said he believed that was what Reuther was doing and was the first person to sign the petition.

“He didn’t show up at my house,” Thompson said. Gray echoed the statement.

Stacey said Reuther only came to his house after Stacey called him, fearing the city would charge him twice for the inspection due to a scheduling conflict.

“And did we charge you twice?” Gray said. “We didn’t charge you at all.”

Recalling that Assistant Clerk Kimberly Wright denied telling him the city was going to charge him for the inspector’s second visit, Stacey said: ‘That’s a lie. It’s a flat lie.

“You talking to (Reuther) about your concerns is absolutely, 100% OK,” Thompson said. “(Reuther) going into the community and stirring the pot, saying ‘This is what’s happening at city council, we don’t like it, will you sign this petition’, is unethical and not OK in this environment.”

“The board is the one who made this order,” Gray said. “You are welcome to get information from citizens. It’s perfectly fine. But when you, as a council member, come to us with a petition that you initiated, it’s unethical.

Reuther said people who couldn’t come to the workshop wanted a way to participate in the discussion.

Gray and Thompson said it is up to the citizens to submit a petition to the council. “You don’t go around getting the signatures,” Thompson said. “It’s their job.”

“I wasn’t on the board when it was passed,” Reuther said.

“But you are now,” Thompson said, “and you’re responsible for your confidence now.”

Earlier in the meeting, Nevis resident Trevor Nicklason asked if the city was receiving any financial benefits from the League of Minnesota Cities, which Thompson said advised them to craft the ordinance last year.

Thompson said the city pays LMC to provide advice on handling issues such as insurance, fire, charters and union contracts.

“We don’t have to follow what they suggest,” she said, “but it’s a starting point, so that we have guidance on what’s legal, what’s common practice and how we can solve problems if we need to.”

Reuther took issue with Thompson’s description of LMC as nonpartisan. He called it a lobbying organization that supports critical race theory. Nicklason wondered if the city should take advice from a political organization.

“It’s not a political organization,” Gray and Thompson said in unison.

“Look at their website,” Reuther replied.

“There’s not an organization out there that (provides) support for organizations like our city that don’t have political skin in the game,” Thompson said, “because every organization is there- down, in a way, looking to do things the right way.”

Thompson said in her experience with the LMC, even while working for a Christian civic organization, “not once did I feel that their advice, or the direction in which their support came, was inappropriate or politically motivated. in any way. It was about what the law said. It was also about how you protect the people of your city and the employees of your city.

Denise W. Whigham