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Two Harbors mayor's announcement: 'I will not resign'

During a press conference Wednesday, Chris Swanson denied wrongdoing: "Yup, I'm a visionary leader who loves this community of Two Harbors."

Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson
With his wife, Rebecca, standing at his side, Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson announces that he will not resign during a Wednesday news conference at Two Harbors City Hall.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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TWO HARBORS — Mayor Chris Swanson said Wednesday he would not be resigning, setting the stage for an August recall election.

During an eight-minute speech in the City Council chambers Wednesday morning, Swanson, with his wife, Rebecca, by his side, denied any wrongdoing, despite a March memorandum of opinion written by city attorney Tim Costley that found Swanson repeatedly used his official city position “for personal benefit or business interests” on a number of issues, violating both the city’s communication’s policy and city code.

"Everyone is crystal clear of who I am: Yup, I'm a visionary leader who loves this community of Two Harbors. I'm a big cheerleader for it and a big cheerleader for getting things done," Swanson said after listing accomplishments the city has made since he became mayor in 2017. "That being said, I can't abandon the vision, nor can I abandon the many people who believe what we're doing in our community is finally working. We are taking on bigger projects and we're starting to move forward. The best is yet to come. I will not resign."

Although he called it a press conference, he left immediately after his speech and ignored questions from the press.

Todd Ronning, chair of the Resign or Recall Committee, attended the announcement. After which he said, "yikes."

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"I don't know how he could say that," Ronning said of Swanson's denial of any wrongdoing. "I think the six items on our petition were all irrefutable allegations of malfeasance. ... He's living in an alternative universe to say that nothing has been proven true."

Swanson had until the end of the day Tuesday to resign , five days after the Two Harbors City Council voted 6-1 to call for the recall of Swanson after enough residents signed a recall petition. Only Swanson voted against it.

The city's charter allows for an elected official five days to resign before the city schedules a recall election. According to the resolution passed by the council last week, the recall vote would then be scheduled for the Aug. 9 primary election — the earliest an election can be held in a redistricting year.

Todd Ronning, chairman of the Recall or Resign Committee.
Todd Ronning, chairman of the Resign or Recall Committee, reacts to a statement by Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson during the Wednesday news conference where Swanson said he will not resign.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

According to the charter, voters would answer one "yes" or "no" question: "Shall Mayor Christopher Swanson be recalled?"

If a majority of voters mark "yes," Swanson would immediately be removed from office and a special election would be called to fill his term, which ends in January 2025.

The recall effort came in the wake of Swanson's underwater hotel and cryptocurrency pursuits and other potential conflicts of interest and ethical concerns coming to light.

A hearing on a lawsuit filed by Lake County Republicans Chair Tim Jezierski, who is represented by Swanson's attorney, Brendan Tupa, is scheduled for Monday, according to court records.

The lawsuit seeks to nullify the recall effort, claiming the city's recall process "fails to conform with Minnesota law" and that organizers failed to define "malfeasance" and misled signers by saying their signatures would not be public.

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Recall organizers first submitted a petition that had garnered almost 1,000 signatures, 735 of which were verified by city staff. But organizers withdrew their petition after learning the signatures would be public.

Then, in the matter of five days, organizers collected more than 600 signatures with the full understanding that signatures would be public. City staff verified 535 of those signatures, which is more more than the 498 signatures — 20% of the city's registered voters — required by the city's charter for a petition to move forward and sent the matter to the council to call for the recall.

This story was updated at 12:52 p.m. June 1 with a quote from Todd Ronning, additional information on the recall vote process, an embed of the recall petition and photos from the press conference. It was originally posted at 12:06 p.m. June 1.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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