Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Poochigian v. City of Grand Forks ND

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 11, 2018

Donald Poochigian, O'Dale Brown, Barbara Collins, Abigail Collins, Mary Weaver, David Haberman, Gordon Iseminger, Troy Fugate, Elaine Lewandowski-Johnson, Bailey Bubach, Angela Nagle, Lorrie Bulmer, Ron Franz, Concetta Renna, Veronica Dockter, Leigh Jeanotte, James Schothorst, Lisa Carney, C.T. Marhula, Alex Fornes, Deborah Hildebrandt, William Lubitz, Ralph Honda, Contestants C.T. Marhula, Appellant
v.
City of Grand Forks ND, Contestee and Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Steven L. Marquart, Judge.

          C.T. Marhula, self-represented, Grand Forks, N.D., appellant.

          Ronald F. Fischer (argued) and Daniel L. Gaustad (on brief), Grand Forks, N.D., for contestee and appellee.

          OPINION

          TUFTE, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] C.T. Marhula appeals from a judgment dismissing an action contesting a special election in the City of Grand Forks. Marhula argues Grand Forks lacked authority under its home rule charter and city ordinances to designate one voting location for the special election. We conclude Marhula's post-election challenge to the special election is moot, and we affirm the judgment dismissing the action.

         I

         [¶ 2] In 2015, the Grand Forks City Council accepted a proposal to commercially develop property known as the Arbor Park area in downtown Grand Forks. Citizens of Grand Forks thereafter petitioned for an initiated measure to require the City Council to reconsider its decision and retain the area as a park. After the City Council declined to reverse its decision, the initiated measure was submitted to the Grand Forks voters. The City Council voted to hold a special election on the measure on June 20, 2017, and to designate one voting location for the entire city at the Alerus Center.

         [¶ 3] On June 26, 2017, the canvassing board met and certified there were 180 more "no" votes out of 4, 722 total votes cast at the special election. This result left in place the city's decision to sell the property for commercial development. On June 27, 2017, Grand Forks executed a contract to sell the property to Green Jacket, LLC, a North Dakota limited liability company, and on August 11, 2017, Grand Forks executed a warranty deed to Green Jacket for the property. The deed stated the property would revert to the city if Green Jacket did not begin excavation on the property before December 31, 2017. According to the Grand Forks mayor, excavation had begun on the property by October 26, 2017, and Grand Forks' reversionary interest in the property was extinguished.

         [¶ 4] Meanwhile, in July 2017, more than ten electors, including Marhula, brought this action under N.D.C.C. § 16.1-16-03 to contest the special election. The contestants sought to void the special election, alleging: (1) Grand Forks violated its home rule charter and city ordinances by designating one voting location for the entire city; and (2) the canvassing board erred in rejecting two absentee ballots postmarked on the day of the election.

         [¶ 5] Grand Forks moved to dismiss the contestants' action, asserting their complaint was not verified as required by N.D.C.C. § 16.1-16-03 and the action was not filed within the time required by N.D.C.C. § 16.1-16-04. The district court denied Grand Forks' motion, ruling the contestants' complaint was properly verified and the action was commenced and filed within fourteen days after the canvassing board's final certification as required by N.D.C.C. § 16.1-16-04.

         [¶ 6] After an evidentiary hearing, the district court dismissed the contestants' complaint. The court construed the language of N.D.C.C. § 16.1-04-02 in effect on the date of the election to authorize Grand Forks to establish a single voting location for the special election for good and sufficient reasons. The court concluded there were no provisions in the Grand Forks Municipal Code depriving the City of that power and found:

The reason the City preferred a single polling place, and specifically the Alerus Center, is that they had difficulty obtaining election workers. Although the City had never canceled an election for lack of workers, obtaining workers was a struggle right up to election day. Also, the City wished to use Grand Forks County electronic poll books. The City and Grand Forks County entered into a Joint Powers Agreement that had the County of Grand Forks agreeing to furnish the machines, as well as training to operate them. Grand Forks County insisted on a single polling place since the County had no time to train workers in several locations. The Alerus Center is located on main roads. It has room to hold voters in the venue in case of inclement weather. The Court finds that these were good and sufficient reasons to have the Alerus Center as a single polling place in the Special Election.

         The court concluded the designation of a single voting location for the special election was not erroneous or fraudulent under N.D.C.C. § 16.1-16-05(2). The court also concluded that the canvassing board did not err in rejecting two absentee ballots postmarked on the day of the election under the language of N.D.C.C. § 16.1-07-09 and that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.