Jaeger rejects Conrad recall petitionA resident here said he’s preparing to sue the state of North Dakota in order to pursue a recall of Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion Thursday saying the recall of an elected federal official is not possible under either the North Dakota Constitution or state laws.
By: By Kristen M. Daum, Forum Communications Co. , The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — A resident here said he’s preparing to sue the state of North Dakota in order to pursue a recall of Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued an opinion Thursday saying the recall of an elected federal official is not possible under either the North Dakota Constitution or state laws.
The findings in the opinion prompted Secretary of State Al Jaeger to reject Thursday a petition led by Fargo resident Joseph Wells that sought to recall Conrad.
Fargo state Rep. Blair Thoreson made the request at the behest of Wells, who is chairman of the Committee to Recall Kent Conrad.
In a letter Thursday to Wells, Jaeger wrote that he didn’t have the authority to approve the petition, based on Stenehjem’s opinion.
Attorney general opinions hold the force of law until overturned by court or legislative action.
Wells said he’s seeking an attorney and plans to move forward with a lawsuit against the state “as soon as is practical,” because he believes state law does allow for the recall.
Wells and state officials disagree on the interpretation of the section in the state Constitution that allows for recalls.
The provision states “any elected official of the state” can be recalled, but does not specifically list federal officials.
A constitutional amendment in 1979 changed which public officials in North Dakota could still be recalled, Stenehjem wrote.
“By deleting the references to ‘congressional officers’ … (they) intended that a change be made in the law and that congressional officers would no longer be subject to recall,” Stenehjem wrote.
But, Wells cited notes from the legislative committee that drafted the constitutional change and said he believes there was never any intent to alter who could be recalled.
“I just think it’s very obvious,” Wells said.
Wells said he wasn’t surprised by either from Stenehjem’s opinion or Jaeger’s rejection of the petition. Both Stenehjem and Jaeger are Republicans.
“I anticipated this happening,” Wells said. “I figured there was a small chance, though, that (Stenehjem) would delve deep and follow what the Constitution says.”
Wells and four others on the Committee to Recall Kent Conrad have said they’re pursuing the recall because Conrad has repeatedly “violated his oath of office.”
They have cited examples such as Conrad’s voting against the will of North Dakotans and his pro-health care reform vote, among other issues.
Kristen Daum is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.