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 Does the city website violate state law?

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PostSubject: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 8:34 am

Should a city web site be used to give the appearance that it is endorsing candidates. The answer is "no".

MN. Stat. 211B.09. Prohibited public employee activities

"An employee or official of the state or of a political subdivision may not use official authority or influence to compel a person to apply for membership in or become a member of a political organization, to pay or promise to pay a political contribution, or to take part in political activity. A political subdivision may not impose or enforce additional limitations on the political activities of its employees."

Using the city website and having only two candidates is inappropriate. I have run for state office and have general familiarity with state and federal campaign laws and I have never seen a city site campaign for candidates like this appears.

This is the common practice throughout the state. My opinion is that the use of the "City's" site for this purpose is inappropriate. I am not saying it is illegal, but it might be.

City employees should be fair and know the law before creating a political quagmire.
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:11 am

This action by David Lang and Vicki Oakes appears to me to be another attack of the free press. They are acting as the media. What is this, Pravda? Again they appear to be attempting to control the news. The candidates have free access to this website to talk about their positions and engage with the public. Instead they have David Lang and Vicki Oakes use the city site to promote their campaign. I have "never" seen any city promote incumbent candidates this way.

It is not the function of the city to be used to campaign for the candidates. The City of Ortonville has plenty of news outlets. The newspaper, the radio, and this internet website.

Why don't the candidates come on this site and let the public know what their position is? What are they afraid of? Are they afraid that the public will ask the questions that they don't want to answer? Why do they hide behind David and Vicki?

Come on out candidates and show yourselves. You have an unlimited FREE forum here to reach the public with your vision for your campaign. Unlike the paper and the radio you can campaign on this site without charge. If that isn't a testament to fiscal irresponsibility I don't know what is. Here you have Blair Johnson and Nick Anderson running for office and talking about wanting to cut costs and spend less and they don't even take advantage of a free public forum to campaign. Instead are they using the city site to cowardly give their fluffy stump speech where no one can question them? I..yi..yi..I am appalled.

_________________

Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived;
but as long as the presses can be protected,
we may trust to them for light.
- Thomas Jefferson
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PostSubject: I am Offended   Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:47 am

This site really offends me. Rules are set up so that the first person who reports back with their campaign material is always in the first position.

This is unfair and childish. I was here first. The federal government says equal in their campaign laws. Not who is first.

The webmaster sure has a lot of control on who she is supporting and making sure they are first.

If the webmaster wants to go out and campaign she should do this on her own time instead of using city time and city resources.

Perhaps she doesn't have enough to do with her current job.
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:20 am

Why do the candidates need to use the city website to promote there campaign?

Isn't that using tax dollars to promote a candidate?

Oh wait, I believe it is.

And should the candidates be using tax dollars to promote their campaign?
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:06 pm

On October 12th, I noticed a link on the city website offering information about Mayor Blair Johnson who is again running for office. It took me by surprise that the information was available on him, but, not the other canidate. I then went to the Legal Disclaimer & Website Policies link for the City of Ortonville. It did state in there that the City's website will not provide links or information regarding canidates for offices. I printed out the disclaimer and was prepared to go ask about it. Then, this morning I got a phone call and email from Viki Oaks, stating that an offer has been made for all canidates to have their picture and information about them placed on the site as well.
I had already taken it upon myself to prepare my own website, and have sent out several postcards to get my name familiar to the community. I certainly did not ever or will ever attempt to hide behind someone else to promote who I am and what I can offer.
If each canidate has the same opportunity to have a photo and information listed, I see no wrong doing here. There is no where that I found on the site that promoted any individuals campaign over another. I hope this helps with you questioning of the situation.
I will be involved in the Political Forum on October 24th. Just because one does not personally know me or what I stand for, does not mean I have something to hide. I am running, because I have found that Ortonville has many more things to offer than what is being taken advantage of. Business are closing, in a year, I have seen very little said or done to acknowledge the economic issues, the housing problems, the lack of jobs, or anything to promote activities for our youth and adults to take part in, other than a few big events a year.
If you have a question, please ask me, prior to assuming you know my answer. I look forward to meeting more people within the community and I would not be running for City Council at all if I didn't care what the community members thought, or about the city of Ortonville.
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PostSubject: Welcome angdoren......   Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:10 pm

Welcome angdoren. In the first place when I made the above post your name and photo was not on the site. I was not speaking about you. When I saw your information put on the city website I contacted you to let you know about this internet news forum. I have made no claim that you were hiding. My post was to address the two men who were on the city site.

angdoren wrote:
If each canidate has the same opportunity to have a photo and information listed, I see no wrong doing here. There is no where that I found on the site that promoted any individuals campaign over another. I hope this helps with you questioning of the situation.

I would like to ask you a question. Do you not think that it is improper for a city to use public funds, that have not been previously set aside for such purpose, to promote candidates in an election? How many other candidates are on the city site? That would be like taking any Federal Website and having the current president put up a page. Even though you may have other candidates put up pages it would still be improper because you are using a federally paid employee and federal equipment to do something that is not the function of the government.

The thing that impressed me about you angdoren was that I saw a sign on a yard in Ortonville. That told me that you were willing to spend money to go out and do what was necessary to campaign legally and ethically.

Please think about this. It is important. Much of what you will do should you be elected is to think and make decisions. Just because David Lang and Vicki Oakes makes using its website available to all the candidates does not make it right. If you read some of the posts on this forum you will see that there are many conflicts of interest and actions by the city council that are not proper.

How you respond to this is a reflection of how you will make decisions should you be elected.

Here is something else to think about. Are you being used? Let's look at the timeline.

Blair Johnson incumbent is put up on the city site on Oct. 9th. No mention is made at this time that other candidates will be added.

Six days later Nick Anderson incumbent is put up on the city site on Oct 15.

On the morning of the 15th a post is made on this website by mouthpiece questioning the propriety of such action.

Two hours later Lady Hawk makes a post that questions how the incumbents can do that.

Candidate Angela Doren is now put up on the site and now the site reads that all candidates are invited.

angdoren wrote:
Then, this morning I got a phone call and email from Viki Oaks, stating that an offer has been made for all canidates to have their picture and information about them placed on the site as well.

This is the most interesting piece of news of all. Do you see angdoren that Blair Johnson was up on the city site for 6 days before you were notified that you could be there too. Then when they put up Nick Anderson this site points out that the incumbents are on the city site and you receive a phone call this morning from Vicki Oakes saying that all candidates are invited. If all candidates are invited then why didn't they call you before the 9th. Vicki put up on the City website that the candidate will be put up on the city site in the order they were received. How fair is that if you never received the notice before today. I wonder if you are being used to add validity to their actions?

_________________

Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived;
but as long as the presses can be protected,
we may trust to them for light.
- Thomas Jefferson
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PostSubject: City website police...angdoren   Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:30 pm

angdoren wrote:
I then went to the Legal Disclaimer & Website Policies link for the City of Ortonville. It did state in there that the City's website will not provide links or information regarding canidates for offices. I printed out the disclaimer and was prepared to go ask about it. Then, this morning I got a phone call and email from Viki Oaks, stating that an offer has been made for all canidates to have their picture and information about them placed on the site as well.

The city website policy specifically states that they will NOT allow links to websites of candidates.

City of Ortonville Legal Disclaimer and Website Policy wrote:
The City's website will not provide links to websites for:

  • Candidates for local, state, or federal offices
  • Political organizations or other organizations advocating a positon on a local, state, or federal issue
  • Corporate or other for-profit organizations unless they
    fit any of the criteria stated above
  • The function of a public forum
  • Individual or personal home pages


.....The city reserves sole and exclusive right to determine whether an organization or entity meets the criteria, and whether to approve the link. The determination of links shall be made by the Community Development Coordinator with the approval and review of the City Clerk Administrator.

Is this another example of members of the city thinking they are above the law because they can make the law to suit them? Where was the city attorney in all this? Does he approve it?

_________________

Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived;
but as long as the presses can be protected,
we may trust to them for light.
- Thomas Jefferson
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:35 pm

Hello again and thank you for taking the time to ask me questions personally. I am not defending anything, but did want you to know that Viki did send me an email on Oct 9th offering me the option to add my link to the site. I will be honest here, I broke some rods in my back and have been out of town seeing surgeons to prepare for surgery. I had not responded to her, so she gave me a call to make sure I had gotten it. So to answer you, no I do not feel that I was being used.
I do not know personally any member of the current council or employees in the city office. I made the decision to run, when I got tired of wondering why nobody seemed to be doing anything about the direction Ortonville is going in. I am currently enrolled full-time in college online through University of Phoenix. During my studies over the last several months, I learned that to sit by and watch things happen that I do not agree with, does not give me the right to complain. I have told my children and my husband that Ortonville is where we are going to hang our hat and I will do everything in my power to make it a place we can be proud to call home.
As far as the website, the cost occured to add the information of each candidate to that site is minimal if anything and to me the reason I said yes to the offer, to me it was no different than listing our names. Johnson and Anderson have both already been in office here and people know who they are. I started out believing that if people liked what was happening here, it would not matter what I did or said, that those in office currently would win office again. If one is unhappy with the way things are, maybe I have a chance.
The closer we get to the election time, the more upset I get that I felt that way. I want people in this community to know that I do care. I do want more business and more jobs. I want my teenagers to stay here after graduation if they want, or return to Ortonville after college. I do not feel that ignoring the fact that there is nothing for a child or an adult to look forward to. Fishing, hunting and golf are kist a few things that come to mind, but, there is so much more to offer. The residents should be taken care of as well as the tourists.
I look forward to hearing from you again. I hope you did take the time to see the website I had prior to adding the link to the city's page. I prepared that site before I filed for canidacy.
Angela Doren
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:43 pm

Oh, and thank you Lady Hawk. I was not aware of this website, and I did not take anything about your post personally, I appreciated your opinion on the issue.
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:41 pm

angdoren wrote:
Viki did send me an email on Oct 9th offering me the option to add my link to the site.

angdoren thanks for the information. Is the date Oct 9th a recollection or is it the actual date of the email from Vicki? Vicki posted the information on Blair Johnson on the city site on Oct 9th prior to 9:20 a.m. If she emailed you at the same time she emailed everyone else that was sure a quick response to get Blair up on the website.

The point I am making is not the money but the principal of accountability. It is not the job of the government to be putting up the positions of the candidates. That is the job of the press. It smacks of using the city for personal gain. i.e. to get elected.

If you are elected I do hope you can see the difference between what government is and is not supposed to do and make decisions based on what is the right thing to do.

Not all the candidates are up there. Some of them may be taking the high road and can see that it is improper and so have not agreed to participate. Is it possible that Vicki called you only after this website posted what she was doing and she needed to find someone else to make it look legitimate? You may think this was being done as a favor to you but could it be that contacting you was an attempt to validate what was already up on the city site?

I wish you good luck on your campaign.

_________________

Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived;
but as long as the presses can be protected,
we may trust to them for light.
- Thomas Jefferson
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:00 pm

My original e-mail sent to the candidates is below and was dated 9/17/09 I then sent a reminder e-mail after receiving one entry. At what point will you quit creating stories based on your assumptions?


Good morning Mayor & Council Candidates!!



I will be providing candidate information on the Ortonville’s website. I am also planning to video record any debates that my occur during the campaign and post the video on the web and also Channel 3 public access channel. (Channel 3 is also available to all candidates for campaign purposes. You can contact Shawnda Johnson at Shawnda.Johnson@ortonville.k12.mn.us )



Please provide a picture (or I would be happy to take one for you) and also written information that you would like posted with your picture for the website. I plan to post the information as I receive it.



Please call me at 839-2612 if you have any questions!

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PostSubject: The Letter May Violate the Law   Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:16 pm

Vicki

It appears that your letter is biased and an attempt to control the election in violation of state law. Are you a public employee? Who gave you the authority to control placement of the candidates on the site.

The letter has no rules which allows you to weasel out of accountability. When were the responses due. Why did you contact Ms. Doren today? Who's authority? Why are you encouraging some but not others?

The most important violation is "Why is the second mayoral candidate not named in the letter? He is not the Mayor nor is he a Council Candidate. He is a Mayoral Candidate!

Your letter gives the impression that you favor Mr. Johnson and your location on the site leads an experienced politician to believe that you favor Mr. Anderson.

Didn't Mr. Anderson and Mr. Johnson vote to appoint your boss David Lang to be City Administrator. This is the concise reason public employees should not be involved in politics. They have subtle ways to suade the public.

By the way, a word of wisdom for the candidates, now that many of you have been placed on notice that the use of this site may violate state law, you should seek independent, not the city attorney who represents the city, on the consequences if I am correct. Mr. Johnson I would expect you to pay for this attorney out of pocket just like Mr. Horman did. Or am I worng?

Or are you going to create a special precedent for you?
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PostSubject: Lang and Oakes political bosses?   Thu Oct 15, 2009 8:22 pm

Vicki Oakes wrote:
My original e-mail sent to the candidates is below and was dated 9/17/09 I then sent a reminder e-mail after receiving one entry. At what point will you quit creating stories based on your assumptions?

Good day Vicki, it is always a pleasure to chat with you. Your charge that there is a story being created here is not true. We have not gone into a "private" meeting and talked about you or anyone else. There is a discussion here in the open to find out the truth. As new facts are added then that information gives us a greater understanding of the truth.

Vicki Oakes wrote:
Good morning Mayor & Council Candidates!!

I will be providing candidate information on the Ortonville’s website. I am also planning to video record any debates that my occur during the campaign and post the video on the web and also Channel 3 public access channel. (Channel 3 is also available to all candidates for campaign purposes. You can contact Shawnda Johnson at Shawnda.Johnson@ortonville.k12.mn.us[/size])

Please provide a picture (or I would be happy to take one for you) and also written information that you would like posted with your picture for the website. I plan to post the information as I receive it.

Please call me at 839-2612 if you have any questions!


Who made the decision to have the candidates on the city website? By what authority are you acting? Did the Mayor and City Council approve of this? The city website specifically states that it will not have links to candidates for local offices. Who made the decision to ignore that city policy? Who made the decision to use the Ortonville EDA office as a political election headquarters?

Are you and your boss City Administrator David Lang subverting the political process and trying to direct the outcome of the election by using your positions as City Administrator and Community Development Coordinator to influence the election? Do you think because of your big fancy titles you can ignore the law? Or do you think that you can make your own laws?

Are you concerned that if Blair Johnson and Nick Anderson do not get reelected that you will lose your job?

_________________

Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived;
but as long as the presses can be protected,
we may trust to them for light.
- Thomas Jefferson
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PostSubject: Candidates website pulled   Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:11 am

The above post was made last night. Today the link to the candidate's website has been removed. This is also how inconsistant the city treats citizens. Vicki is in charge of the building permits and nobody knows if they are coming or going. Just like Vicki told that babysitter that she could build the deck and then the babysitter was ordered to remove it Vicki has offered to put up a link to the candidates website and then takes it off.

Did Vicki receive a document from the candidate to put up the information or did she go to the website and copy it? If she went to the website to copy it then how hippocritical is that to copy a website that city policy says cannot be linked to the city?

This is business as usual. Ordinarily when a person makes a mistake it is customary to apologize and correct it. Vicki did not answer my questions but did change the city site. Why? Whose direction is she working under? Is City Administrator David Lang directing her actions? Are Mayor Blair Johnson and Nick Anderson involved?

It is a simple question Vicki. One that deserves a public answer. Who is responsible for deciding to put up the candidates on the city website? Why was Blair Johnson up for 6 days before anyone else? Who made the decision to pull the candidates web link? Are you acting on your own or is City Administrator David Lang hiding behind you directing your actions? Why are you working on politics while on duty at the EDA office?

_________________

Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived;
but as long as the presses can be protected,
we may trust to them for light.
- Thomas Jefferson
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:40 am

I am regretting ever responding to your post. I will not get involved in a blame game. Vicki did not copy and paste the inromation, I did and emailed it to her last night to make you feel better. I did go back and find the email that was sent to me on 9/17. You are making accusations without knowing all the facts.
I want to help this city, bottom line. I hope I get the opportunity to do so. But, I will not enable you to get distorted facts to use against anyone else. Have a great day.
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PostSubject: Ms. Doren Do You Understand the Law   Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:12 pm

The law precludes city employees from participating in political activities. The purpose of this law was to prevent incumbents from abusing and misusing taxpayers money.

This site is an attempt to make government more accountable. I understand you are new to the politics of this area, but the city adminsitrator has been at best disingenious with this site. We watch the city to make the government better.

There was no accusation, there was a question. You have now answered that question. It is actually your response I have concern. Please provide us with a copy of the Septembet 17, 2009 letter.

We have asked for this information and we have not received it.

Please bear with us. We are here to make government better. The press has always asked the tough questions and we will continue. It makes government more accountable.

This was not a blame as you indicated this was information gathering.
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:37 am

Thank you angdoren for providing that information. The english language is a wonderful thing. It should be read accurately. I have made no accusations. I am asking questions to try to understand the actions of public servants. I too want to help this community, bottom line. I believe that can be done by holding the people who are in the public office accountable for their actions. Thank you for identifying that you received an email on 9/17. We will then assume that all the candidates received the same request since we now have two corroborating witnesses that say such an email exists.

One of the problems I have seen in the city administration is an inability to recognize favoritism, conflict of interest, respect for the people, and the simple process of complying with local and state statutes. Do we have what appears to be a city employee using her time and office for campaigning in an election? If you are elected will you be part of the status quo or will you take a stand?

You stated that you talked with Vicki that night to make me feel better. I am bewildered by that statement. This is not about me. This is about obeying the law. If you should be elected to office you will be responsible for making sure the city functions within the law. Are you interested in the city obeying the law? Note that there are no other candidates on that website. Do they know something? Do they recognize a problem and so are not participating?

angdoren I wish you well in your campaign. You are running on your beliefs and convictions. If you are in agreement with how David Lang and Vicki Oakes are running the city election then you are entitled to have your own opinion and are welcome to speak about your platform anytime on this forum. Please use it to let people know how you feel and what you want to do if elected. We may not agree about this subject but you are entitled to your opinion and may say so. That is the purpose of this forum is for people to talk.

I commend you for stepping out into the public arena and offering your services to the community. I wish more people would be so gracious as you have been to unselfishly offer your time to serve the public. Please post your website on the forums so that more people can see it. I tried to access it again but I could not find it on a web search.

Keep on campaigning and don't let the fact that you are new to town or that you know so few people discourage you. This is America and the underdog has always been respected. Remember the movie "Rocky."

_________________

Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived;
but as long as the presses can be protected,
we may trust to them for light.
- Thomas Jefferson
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:02 pm

Thank you for your kind words. Yes first of all, it appeared on the 9/17 email that all canidates were listed as being sent the same email.
I did not email Vicky just to please you or any other community member. As I stated before, I had already read the ploicy and was surprised to see Johnson listed on web site. When reviewing the policy again, it stated NO LINK TO WEBSITE, which was an error on my part and Vicky's I will agree with that. When she called she mentioned that she saw the website and that was the information she would like to post, without thinking, I said that information would be fine.
I want people to know who I am, and do not see it as an issue if each of us were offered the opportunity. I feel no favoratism has been put in play.
I definetly if voted into office, will always do my best to make sure each and every member of public office and the employees for the city follow the law. I do apoligize for the brief error made.
my own personal website is :www.angeladoren.community.officelive.com
feel free to let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks.
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PostSubject: Your Open-mindedness is appreciated.   Sun Oct 18, 2009 11:46 am

It is really nice to see some fresh blood in the candidates. We at the Forums appreciated your response. Now let's move beyond you and I, and move to the real issue. Has the governments attempt and use of the city website been even-handed. The answer is, I have my suspicions, but why go there?

Here is what matters. The State of Minnesota, because of abuses and inappropriate activities of some, decided that government should not interfere with fair elections. It more important to have fair elections, rather than meddle in attempting to influence the electorate to support a candidate. This topic was debated in St. Paul and actually in Washington D.C.

Government has experienced that city employees or government employees have vested interests in usually the status quo. That is why Vicki and David Lang support Mr. Johnson. The state government has experienced that city employees may abuse their power; therefore, created a law that precludes their involvement.

Why is Ortonville and the establishment always close to the edge of the fence? Why not follow the law? Why does Vicki and Dave Lang always create controversy? Is it because they are creative? Is it because they have new ideas? It is interesting to note that neither support law enforcement. Perhaps it is because they do not support the law.

I write this to make candid points about how to improve Ortonville! Do we continue to pretend the law does not apply to us, or work within the law to make our community better.

May I boldly suggest that people outside will have more respect and admiration for a community who works within the law. When we see this light we will move this community in a compassionate and respectful path.
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Sun Oct 18, 2009 3:25 pm

Just so I'm on the same page as everyone else, what is the URL for the city website?
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Sun Oct 18, 2009 3:33 pm

Ok, http://www.ortonville.net/ must be the website in question, correct?

If so then I see the .net site is registered to:

Vertical Solutions, Incorporated
124 NW Second Street
Ortonville, MN 56278
US

Who is Vertical Solutions?
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PostSubject: Vertical Solutions   Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:16 pm

Vertical Solutions is owned by Curt Johnson of Ortonville. the address for the cities site is

http://www.ortonville.net/
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:12 pm

Quote :
Vertical Solutions is owned by Curt Johnson of Ortonville.

It would seem to me then that the city of Ortonville's website is legally owned by Curt Johnson/Vertical Solutions, not the city of Ortonville.

If that is the case I don't see what the issue would be.
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PostSubject: The content is improper   Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:52 pm

It is the content that is improper. You do however raise an interesting point. Does Mr. Johnson have some liability

In my first posts I defined the issue when I said,

"Should a city web site be used to give the appearance that it is endorsing candidates. The answer is "no".

MN. Stat. 211B.09. Prohibited public employee activities

"An employee or official of the state or of a political subdivision may not use official authority or influence to compel a person to apply for membership in or become a member of a political organization, to pay or promise to pay a political contribution, or to take part in political activity. A political subdivision may not impose or enforce additional limitations on the political activities of its employees."

My latest post defines the harm that can be caused.
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:56 pm

I don't know Curt Johnson.

Curt Johnson is a city employee?
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PostSubject: Re: Does the city website violate state law?   

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