A district court judge has ruled a petition taking Rep. Bob Barrett to task over a residency dispute did not present enough proof to remove the Republican from the election ballot in November.
As a result, Chisago City resident and District 32B voter Valerie Mondor withdrew her petition Aug. 15 after filing the claim in late July with the Minnesota Supreme Court. Yet she remains critical of Barrett and the Lindstrom home that he claims to have moved to after the Legislature redistricting in 2012, all the while attempting to sell his old residence in Shafer.
The Shafer residence falls outside of the district, and he claims it as his residential homestead for tax purposes. However, Barrett maintains the homestead claim is only for property tax reasons, not because that’s where he’s currently living.
Judge George Stephenson ultimately concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove that Barrett resided outside of the district he represents, Mondor said last week. Though she could have stated her objections over a short session before the Supreme Court, she continued, no additional evidence could be presented and no more witnesses could testify.
“I believe the full court has never overturned such a ruling by a lower judge, so I decided to withdraw,” Mondor added. “Even though Judge Stephenson had not given me the decision I had wanted, much valuable information was revealed through my petition, information that I want to bring to the voters of District 32B.”
She believes that information should cause voters to keep questioning the topic of Barrett’s residency, including why he filed homestead status on a house he claims not to live in.
Mondor said she was perhaps naive in thinking her petition would prompt an investigation of the issue. She found the burden of proof was on her, and she could not meet it.
“As a private citizen, I don’t have the power to subpoena witnesses and obtain private records,” she said. “And we had a very short timetable. From the time my petition was served at the Barrett family home in Shafer, we had about two weeks before the case was closed. But many questions remain. It’s up to the voters now.”
As for Barrett’s response to the withdrawn petition, he released the following statement this week:
“I am happy the results of this process reflect the truth. Everyone I talk with has said that my Democrat opponents need to stop the dirty politics and instead start focusing their attention on important issues facing our state including answering the question as to why they increased everyone’s taxes so that a wasteful and unnecessary $90 million office building for politicians can be built while roads and bridges are allowed to crumble. I look forward to again earning the support of voters in the November election by continuing to stand with taxpayers against wasteful spending.”
Shortly after the petition was filed, the issue gained the attention of both sides of the political aisle, since a high court ruling against the two-term Republican Barrett could have given Democrats a chance at the seat in GOP territory and possible majority control of the Minnesota House.
A law firm that provides legal counsel for the DFL assisted Mondor in her petition. The attorney representing Barrett asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case.
Almost 40,000 people live in District 32B, which mainly covers Chisago County, including the cities of North Branch, Stacy, Wyoming, Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center City and Taylors Falls.