An Otsego resident who sought to run for a seat on Otsego’s city council in the 2020 race alleges he was a victim of election irregularities that denied him the ability to run for election.
In a statement to the Otsego city council at their meeting last week, Joel Cornell said that while filling out his affidavit for candidacy, he asked Otsego’s City Clerk, Tami Loff, if he could keep his address private, and then make it public only if he was elected. He said Loff told him he could do so, which he said turned out to be inaccurate.
A candidate can, in fact, keep their address private, but to do so, they must put their address on a separate sheet of paper attached to the affidavit of candidacy. They must also certify on the affidavit that a either a police report or order for protection has been issued for the candidate or their family’s safety, or that their address is private under Minnesota law for other reasons. This information is stated on the affidavit of candidacy.
Cornell, in a letter to the mayor and councilmembers through his legal counsel, said that the city clerk’s advice was “so wrong that any city clerk must know that the advice was wrong,” citing state election law that he said city clerks should be familiar with. Cornell said the Minnesota Secretary of State has determined he is now ineligible to run for city council because his address was marked as private without the additional requirements of that statute being followed. His name will remain on the ballot, but Cornell’s legal counsel said he faces penalties for violating election law if he takes any action to “run” for office.
Further, Cornell pointed to a social media post made by Loff on her personal account as proof that she favored certain candidates above others, and he alleged that Loff sought to stymie his candidacy as a way of assisting her favored candidates. The social media post in question included profanities, questioned the work ethic of one councilmember, and made allegations of another councilmember’s criminal record.
Cornell also alleged that current councilmember Corey Tanner contacted the Minnesota Secretary of State and Wright County Attorney’s Office to lobby for Cornell’s ineligibility.
Cornell’s legal counsel requested copies of any communication relating to communication between councilmembers Corey Tanner and Jessica Stockamp with Loff, public data regarding Loff’s employment with the City of Otsego, Joe Cornell and/or his candidacy for city council, and any information the city had with the Minnesota Secretary of State or the Wright County Attorney’s Office.
Loff resigned her position last week. Otsego’s city administrator, Adam Flaherty, said he could not discuss personnel matters. He said the city will comply with the data practices request, but he disagreed with the allegations made by Cornell in his letter to the mayor and councilmembers.
“In my review and the city attorney’s review of the facts, and not the speculation outlined in the letter, that we had no evidence of irregularities in the process or how the city clerk conducted the affidavit,” Flaherty said.