Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

August 2019


Summary prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor 

Bruce Clark, et al., Respondents, vs. City of Saint Paul, et al., Appellants – Case No. A19-0916: The City of Saint Paul had an open solid-waste collection system, in which individual households contracted independently with collection haulers, for many years. The Saint Paul City Council passed a resolution in July 2017 to implement an organized solid waste collection program, under which the City contracts with collection haulers to provide waste-collection services. The July 2017 resolution authorized the City to enter into negotiations with collectors under Minn. Stat. § 115A.94 (2018), and in November 2017, the City signed a contract with a consortium of collectors, establishing the terms and conditions for organized waste collection, which was approved by the City Council. In September 2018, the City Council enacted an ordinance governing organized solid-waste collection in the city, which began on October 1, 2018.

On October 16, 2018, the City Clerk received a petition from residents seeking a referendum on the ordinance governing solid-waste collection. The City Council passed a resolution declining to allow a referendum on the ordinance, concluding that the referendum authority provided in the City Charter was preempted by state laws governing organized waste collection, and that a successful referendum would unconstitutionally impair the City’s contract with the trash collectors. In February 2019, the residents filed a petition in district court under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44 (2018), for correction of a ballot error, asserting that the referendum on the ordinance was about to be wrongfully omitted from the ballot for the November 2019 municipal election. The district court granted the petition and directed the City to place the referendum on the November 2019 ballot, or call a special election before the November general election.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) is the referendum authority in the City Charter preempted by state statutes governing organized waste collection; (2) would the City’s contract with waste collection haulers be unconstitutionally impaired by a referendum on the City’s ordinance governing organized waste-collection. (Ramsey County)