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Judge issues writ in Sturgis city manager case

Judge issues writ in Sturgis city manager case

STURGIS, S.D. – Fourth Circuit Judge Michael Day Friday issued a writ of mandamus which essentially orders the city of Sturgis to comply with its duty to schedule an election so voters can decide if the city should remove the city manager position.

The action stems from a Supreme Court decision of Feb. 7, remanding the issue of scheduling and holding the election back to the circuit court.

Since the high court ruling, the Sturgis City Council voted to schedule an election on the city manager question to be held in conjunction with the city’s April 9 Municipal Election.

At the hearing Friday, Day commended the city for moving ahead with scheduling the election even before the court issued the order.

This issue goes back to December of 2021 when citizens Justin and Tammy Bohn and Brenda Vasknetz submitted a petition requesting the city hold an election to change the form of government from an aldermanic form of government with a City Manager to an aldermanic form of government without a City Manager.

The city denied the petition because the city attorney believed that city manager was not a form of government listed in South Dakota state law, and that employing a city manager was an administrative decision.

On Jan. 3, 2022, the Bohns and Vasknetz applied for a writ of mandamus in circuit court seeking to compel the finance officer to certify there were sufficient signatures and to have an election.

Then Circuit Court Judge Kevin Krull granted summary judgment in favor of the city and dismissed the case. The grant of summary judgment effectively denied the application for a writ of mandamus.

Bohns and Vasknetz then appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court for “a writ of mandamus ordering Bueno to certify the petition, present the petition to the Sturgis Council, and for the Sturgis Council to schedule an election.”

The South Dakota Supreme Court disagreed with Krull’s decision and remanded the case back to the circuit court to enter a writ of mandamus directing the city council to schedule and hold an election which was issued by Judge Day on Friday.

Kellen Willert, the attorney for the Bohns and Vasknetz, asked the court on Friday to revisit the facts and findings of the original circuit court case and also to revisit the costs and damages associated with that case.

Judge Day set a briefing schedule and agreed that both parties should appear at a March 22 hearing to address those issues and whether or not the court will review the ballot to be used in the April 9 election.

Willert requested that the court approve the city’s ballot explanation regarding the City Manager question. Sturgis City Staff Attorney Eric Miller objected to the request saying he believed that this review, without some sort of legal dispute, is beyond the Court’s authority and under SDCL 9-10-1 is left to the sole discretion of the city attorney to craft.

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