This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).

 

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A03-281

 

City of Akeley,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Michael Nelson,

Respondent.

 

Filed November 25, 2003

Affirmed

Hudson, Judge

 

Hubbard County District Court

File No. C4-02-915

 

Steven H. Bolton, Bolton Law Office, P.O. Box 126, Park Rapids, Minnesota 56470 (for appellant)

 

John E. Valen, Fifth and Michigan, P.O. Box 1105, Walker, Minnesota 56484 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Peterson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

HUDSON, Judge

            Appellant City of Akeley challenges the district court’s ruling that appellant failed to show respondent violated any validly enacted Akeley city ordinances.  Because we agree that the city did not prove the ordinances were validly enacted, we affirm.

FACTS

            In May 2001, respondent Mike Nelson placed a mobile home on property he owned within the city of Akeley, Minnesota.  Having read in the local newspaper that the city was considering new ordinances that might affect this move, Nelson went to the city office building to look at the ordinance book.  Nelson was told that the ordinance book was at the city attorney’s office and was unavailable.  Nelson decided to move the mobile home onto the property, as he had previously done on other properties. 

            On June 26, 2001, Akeley’s city attorney sent Nelson a letter informing him that placing the mobile home on the property violated a recently adopted city ordinance, and that the mobile home was illegally placed on two lots.  The letter requested that Nelson remove the mobile home within ten days, or be fined $75 for each day the mobile home remained on the property.  Nelson did not move the mobile home.

            On August 8, 2001, the city attorney sent Nelson’s attorney a letter informing him that the mobile home was in violation of several city ordinances and again requesting that Nelson remove the mobile home.  Nelson did not comply.

            The City of Akeley served Nelson with a complaint November 8, 2001, alleging that he was in violation of three city ordinances and that the city had enacted a moratorium prohibiting mobile homes within the city limits. 

            A court trial was held November 27, 2002.  As evidence of the city ordinances Nelson was alleged to have violated, the city introduced photocopies of ordinances 9, 67, and 73, as well as photocopies of the newspaper publication of ordinances 67 and 73.  Nelson objected to the admission of these ordinances, arguing that the copies failed to meet the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 599.13 (2002), which addresses how the valid enactment of ordinances may be proved.  Specifically, the copies provided by the city did not contain the signatures of the mayor or the seal of the city clerk.  The city indicated that a disgruntled former city employee destroyed many of the city’s records, and that the city no longer possessed signed, certified copies of these ordinances.  The district court provisionally admitted the copies into evidence, but directed the parties to submit post-trial memoranda on the validity of the ordinances.  In its memorandum, the city argued that although the city did not possess certified copies of the ordinances, their validity is presumed under Minn. Stat. § 599.13 because they were published more than three years before the trial.

            On February 14, 2003, the district court issued its findings of fact and order in Nelson’s favor.  The court concluded that the evidence at trial did not provide proof of the valid enactment of ordinances 9, 67, or 73.  The district court also concluded that even if the ordinances were validly enacted, Nelson had not violated them.  This appeal follows.

D E C I S I O N

            The city argues that the district court improperly excluded copies of ordinances 9, 67, and 73 from evidence.  On review of the record, it does appear that the district court admitted and considered the copies as evidence, but determined that the copies did not provide proof of the ordinances’ validity.  This court reviews evidentiary rulings for abuse of discretion.  State v. Kennedy, 585 N.W.2d 385, 389 (Minn. 1998). 

Minn. Stat. § 599.13 states

[c]opies of the ordinances . . . of any city . . . certified by the mayor or president of the council, and the city clerk under its seal in the case of a city . . . and copies of the same printed in any newspaper, book, pamphlet, or other form, and which purport to be published by authority of the council of such city . . . shall be prima facie evidence thereof and, after three years from the compilation and publication of any such book or pamphlet, shall be conclusive proof of the regularity of their adoption and publication.

 

            As proof of the contents of ordinances 9, 67, and 73, the city submitted photocopies of the documents contained in the city’s ordinance book, as well as photocopies of the newspaper in which ordinances 67 and 73 were published.  The current mayor of Akeley, as well as a former city employee and a current city council member, testified that the reproductions were accurate reproductions of the documents contained in the city ordinance book. 

The city argues that pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 599.13, the ordinances became presumptively valid three years after they were published, and cites City of Bemidji v. Beighley, 410 N.W.2d 338 (Minn. App. 1987), for that proposition.  Bemidji held that city ordinances were conclusively valid three years after they were published in the city code, and the availability of the ordinances was published in the local newspaper.  Id. at 342-43. 

But here, unlike in Bemidji, the original certified ordinances were destroyed.  Although the copies may be identical to what is contained in the ordinance book now, the copies and testimony do not prove that the language contained in the current ordinance book is the same as that contained in the original ordinances.  Under the circumstances, we agree with the district court that the unsigned, uncertified copies submitted by the city do not conclusively prove the validity of the ordinances under Minn. Stat. § 599.13.  Whether there is another means to demonstrate that these ordinances were validly enacted is an open question.  But in any case, the city did not proffer such a means or offer any other evidence to prove the validity of these ordinances.  Because the city did not prove that the ordinances were validly enacted, and we affirm on that basis, we need not address whether respondent violated the ordinances.   

Affirmed.