Judge backs Hodges in suit over delayed Mpls. budget

Mayor Betsy Hodges
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News file

Updated: 6:00 p.m. | Posted: 5:34 p.m.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges Thursday won a key court battle over the definition of a budget.

A city official had sued Hodges over the delayed release of next year's tax and spending plan. Carol Becker, one of two elected members of the Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation, argued that Hodges' decision to release the budget Sept. 12 didn't give the public enough time to examine the inch-thick document before a hearing the next day.

Hodges had provided an outline of her plan, which included a proposed 5.5 percent property tax increase. But she said two major public safety incidents had delayed preparation of the full budget; she also wanted new police chief Medaria Arradondo to weigh in on the department's budget.

Carol Becker, a member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation
Carol Becker
Matt Sepic | MPR News file

Becker argued the mayor still missed the city charter's deadline of Aug. 15 because the outline didn't contain crucial spending details.

Last week, Hennepin County Judge Mary Vasaly ordered Hodges to deliver a budget proposal within a week, or explain why she could not.

On Thursday, however, Vasaly concluded that the "mayor satisfied her official duty to provide a recommended 'budget' by Aug. 15" and that the budget outline's lack of detail didn't mean that the mayor had violated her duties, adding "in this case, there was not a complete failure to perform."

Vasaly, however, chided Hodges, saying the court agreed with Becker "that a recommended budget that does more than meet the bare minimum requirements of the charter would be a much more useful document ... providing the minimum information required on Aug. 15 and then later supplementing it is not a process that allows city officials and the public a full opportunity" to add their voices or raise concerns.

In a statement, Hodges called the lawsuit "frivolous." The mayor added that delivering her budget address on Sept. 12 allows "the City Council and the residents of Minneapolis three full months to comment on and give their full consideration to my budget proposal."