Oronoco city council members named in first amendment lawsuit

(ABC 6 News) – The mayor of Oronoco, along with several city council members, are now the target of a federal lawsuit.

It all began after a heated exchange during the public comment portion of a city council meeting, and ended with a woman being escorted out by law enforcement.

The mayor and city council members are now accused of violating that woman’s first amendment rights.

This all follows dramatic scenes from a city council meeting this past March, when Andrea Johnson addressed the city council over her concerns about members missing multiple meetings.

“There is a council member currently on the board that has had significant absences since the election back in November,” said Johnson at the city council meeting in March.

It was those comments that made Oronoco city council member Carl Krause abruptly resign and walk out in frustration.

“I’m gonna resign from council effectively immediately. I don’t have to be humiliated by any other council person to have puppets come in and talk,” said Krause.

Krause had missed a handful of meetings and accused other council members of coordinating with Johnson to make him look bad.

Just days later, Krause reversed course, telling reporters that he had rescinded his resignation, again accusing Johnson and council members of conspiring against him.

At the next council meeting, Johnson reappeared and accused Krause of intimidation.

“Luckily as a grown woman, I am strong enough to handle that kind of nonsense, but many people wouldn’t be,” said Johnson.

Before she could finish her remarks, she was escorted out of the meeting by an Olmsted County sheriff’s deputy at the mayor’s request.

Now she’s suing.

“If a government official retaliates for first amendment protected speech, that is a violation of Annie’s rights,” said Naomi Martin, Johnson’s attorney.

The suit names the mayor, Krause and two other Oronoco city council members.

Her attorney says the lawsuit is meant to send a message that the citizens of Oronoco deserve a voice and won’t be silenced.

The complaint was filed Thursday. ABC 6 News reached out to others named in the suit, but were told they hadn’t been served yet.

The suit is asking for a jury to determine a monetary amount for damages Johnson allegedly suffered.