Prudence and due diligence from elected officials often goes unnoticed, as it’s often blunders and scandal that make headlines. So we want to applaud members of the McLeod County Board for their wise decision this past week to heed the legal counsel of County Attorney Michael Junge while considering a resolution. That may seem like an obvious thing to do, but unfortunately that is not always the case.
The resolution written and presented by Commissioner Ron Shimanski earlier this month questioned whether Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic are constitutional. It went on to declare “that executive orders of the State of Minnesota that here in after are in conflict with the constitutional rights of citizens shall have no force and effect within the geographic boundaries of McLeod County.”
Voiding the governor’s lawful orders within the county is what concerned Junge, for two reasons: 1. The County Board, he said, does not have authority to determine what is and is not constitutional. That is the job of the courts; and 2. It could create enforcement issues where local law enforcement agencies such as Hutchinson Police Services and the McLeod County Sheriff’s Office are operating under different sets of rules in their respective jurisdictions. The resolution would also, in essence, be instructing the sheriff’s office and attorney’s office to ignore their sworn obligations of upholding the actual Constitution as legally determined by the courts.
The county attorney voiced these concerns at the June 2 meeting when the resolution was first introduced, and to the commissioners’ credit, they heard his advice and tabled the resolution. On June 16, a revised resolution was approved without language declaring the governor’s orders void in McLeod County.
This was a refreshing decision as McLeod County Board members haven’t always listened to the advice of the county attorney and followed the Constitution. Back in May 2013, the board discussed a resolution affirming the belief that “all federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations regarding firearms are a violation of the Second Amendment.” Junge had the same concerns with that resolution as he did with the COVID-19 resolution, but a majority of the board ignored him and voted 3-2 for approval.
Among the board members in 2013 were two current board members: Shimanski, who approved the 2013 Second Amendment resolution, and Paul Wright, who opposed it. Although the two seemed to disagree on the County Board's authority in 2013, they seem to agree today, with Shimanski telling the Leader, “that is the court’s job” to determine the constitutionality of laws.
And although he was not a member of the board in 2013, Board Chair Joe Nagel agreed that the former commissioners should have heeded Junge’s legal advice.
“I would say that they probably should have, in 2013, they should have consulted their attorney,” Nagel said.
Whether they admit it or not, their actions this past month regarding the COVID-19 resolution show that all five current County Board members agree that the 2013 Second Amendment resolution is unconstitutional and could create enforcement issues. After all, Junge raised the same flags with the 2013 resolution as he did this month.
So this begs the question: Why not change the 2013 Second Amendment resolution? Unfortunately, it seems County Board members don’t have the appetite to go through that experience a second time.
“Mr. Junge brought up similar statements in 2013,” Wright said. “This board at this time chose to support a statement to look at the entire Constitution and entire Bill of Rights and make a statement that we believe in all of it.”
“I don’t believe at this time the board has any intentions to go back and look at that (2013 resolution),” he added.
Nagel agreed with Wright, adding, “I believe in the Second Amendment wholeheartedly, but I also believe in laws and rules, and I believe in the process.”
We believe in the Constitution and process as well, and that’s why we urge county commissioners to reconsider and use the given process to remove the unconstitutional 2013 Second Amendment resolution from McLeod County’s records. It’s never too late for elected officials to correct the mistakes of the past, especially when they acknowledge something is wrong.