Olmsted County judge dismisses RPS levy lawsuit with prejudice


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(ABC 6 News) – Olmsted County judge Christina Stevens dismissed a lawsuit against Rochester Public Schools Thursday, April 11.

The lawsuit, filed in October of 2023 by Casey McGregor of the Say No To The Tax Man group in Rochester, claimed RPS’ tax levy proposal underinformed and actively misled voters about the plans for funds.

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McGregor’s complaint was dismissed with prejudice, meaning she is barred from filing another lawsuit on the same issue at a later date.

The tax levy failed by a narrow margin in November.

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“We are pleased that the Court issued its order to completely dismiss the complaint Ms. McGregor filed against the District,” RPS superintendent Kent Pekel said in an email. “The District maintained all along that there was no ballot error, and the Court agreed. It is unfortunate that this lawsuit, which received extensive press coverage, may have become a distraction for some voters shortly before an election that resulted in the narrow defeat of an important referendum proposal by 318 votes. In addition, Rochester Public Schools was forced to incur more than $31,000 in funding that could and should have gone to support teaching and learning to defend this case in court.”

Stevens’ judgement, embedded in full at the bottom of this article, cites several problems with McGregor’s petition — not least of which was the fact that 1,700 citizens had already voted on the referendum via absentee ballot by the time McGregor filed.

Stevens also denied that McGregor had “standing” to bring a lawsuit against RPS using one of two MN Statutes she cited, and affirmed that the ballot was accurate and certified by the city’s school board.

From hearing transcript, case # 55-CV-23-7307

In a statement to ABC 6 News, McGregor said Rochester Public Schools had not addressed her assertion of an “underlying invalidity” in the referendum question.  

“Despite Pekel denying he has learned a lesson about attempting to make a valid choice in proposing levies, he has admitted he will not (immediately, at least) attempt to repeat last year’s errant attempt of a capital project levy for a mix of operating capital expenses,” McGregor wrote. “He will instead use an operating capital levy, as I said he should have done.”  The project-type levy is required to be focused on an building or site improvement (see 123B.71 subd. 2), rather than miscellaneous assortment of operating capital expenses.”

Judge Stevens granted Rochester Public Schools’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but denied their motion to force McGregor to pay “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs” incurred during the case.

McGregor claimed that the school district chose to “play the bully with a tremendously expensive attorney, which they did maliciously.”