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Friday, November 26, 2021

Paul’s Charter Commission votes against administrative fines, 7-6

With the most votes, the St Paul’s Rite Commission overturned a proposal that opened the door for new administrative fines for those who violate city ordinances.

The 7-6 vote represents a setback for both the administration of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and the majority of city councilors who have been calling for new strategies over the years against erring homeowners, employers who flout minimum wage rules, property owners, that violate zoning rules. and other misunderstandings.

Officials from the Security and Inspection Department and the City Prosecutor’s Office said many of the city’s orders remain unfulfilled because the violation does not require a criminal investigation. According to them, administrative fines can facilitate compliance without criminal prosecution.

“Having a different enforcement mechanism is a good thing,” said Brian Alton, chairman of the charter committee.

Critics, however, are concerned that a charter amendment giving the city council the power to impose new administrative fines would allow cash-strapped city departments to balance their ledgers with low-income residents. They also wondered if it was worth hiring several lawyers and a hearing officer.

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“If you have 120 complaints about dogs, is it worth raising fines by hiring three lawyers and independent judges?” – said Commissioner Gary Unger, having voted against.

Councilor Jane Prince sent the charter commission an email on Friday raising 13 questions, including whether the Department of Security and Inspection would seek authority to impose “fines for general and minor code violations” such as paint peeling.

“Other than the dubious allegation that the amendment seeks to decriminalize violations of the code – rarely imposed by DSIs and even less often supported by the Ramsey County courts – why are we amending the bylaws for as little as $ 1,000 in additional penalties?” The prince wrote.

Former city councilor Debbie Montgomery, who received another negative vote, said the council could still put its proposal to a city-wide ballot-driven vote or request the same powers to impose administrative fines from the Legislature. Otherwise, after some refinement, answering questions from critics, she said that “the city council can return (to us) with another request.”

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