Minnetonka mask mandate is illegal, legal group says

"The Minnesota Legislature has preempted any attempt by a City Council to invoke emergency powers after a mayor-declared emergency has ended," according to one attorney.

Minnetonka City Hall (Minnetonka/Facebook)

A legal group known for its lawsuits against government overreach is threatening to sue the Minnetonka City Council for its purportedly illegal city mask mandate.

The Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) emailed a letter to Minnetonka Mayor Brad Wiersum, City Attorney Corrine Heine, and six city council members on Wednesday that demanded the repeal of the city’s emergency mask ordinance.

Writing on behalf of a client, UMLC senior trial counsel James Dickey said the city has no authority to impose such an ordinance “absent a mayor-declared emergency and based on an established city disaster plan.”

Although there is no longer any state of emergency in the state of Minnesota, let alone the city of Minnetonka, the council claimed the authority to impose the emergency mask ordinance based on its interpretation of a provision in the city charter.

But, Dickey writes, “the Minnesota Legislature has preempted any attempt by a City Council to invoke emergency powers after a mayor-declared emergency has ended.”

“The only time a city council can issue emergency resolutions or pass emergency ordinances consistent with state law is where the mayor has declared an emergency which is in effect and the city’s disaster plan invokes the city council’s actions related to the emergency,” he added. “Because there is no emergency in Minnetonka, the Council’s emergency mask resolution is preempted by state law and illegal.”

In the event that the Minnetonka City Council does not repeal the mandate, the UMLC says it will file a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court seeking a temporary restraining order against the mandate.

The decision on whether or not to reimpose mask mandates throughout the Twin Cities area has not been uniform. In addition to Minnetonka, the most notable cities to do so were Minneapolis and St. Paul themselves. But other suburbs like Edina, as well as other major Minnesota cities like St. Cloud, have rejected them.

In some cases the rejection of a city mandate has not stopped certain non-governmental authority figures from enforcing a mandate in their own spheres. For example, the principal of Edina High School recently wrote an email to parents warning that staff will “ramp up” enforcement of the district’s mask mandate.

The Catholic bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Donald Kettler, also reimposed a diocesan mask mandate for all indoor parish activities, including Masses, even though they aren’t required anywhere else in the city.