The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

Councilmember recall election canceled

Ed Higgins
Members from all around Columbia Heights, including students from CHHS’s graduating class last year (from left to right: Sydney Miller, Lilah Bergan, Saniah Howard-Reynolds and Heaven Gg) came together to sign the recall petition.

In May 2023, efforts were made by local citizens to recall Columbia Heights (CH) City Council member Kay “KT” Jacobs, who back in July 2022 made a racist phone call under the alias “Kathy Huff” to then-Council candidate Justice Spriggs (who was thereafter elected to the Council), as proven in an independent investigation despite her repeated denial of the incident. She questioned and denied Spriggs’ biracial heritage, suggesting he wasn’t “Black enough to be biracial.” This unsurprisingly caused outrage in the CH community, which has a significant population of people of color as of the 2020 census.

“I was appalled,” CH resident Jennifer Pyper-Muno said. “It really bothers me that she can do the work of the Council but not take responsibility for what she did [by] sticking to her story — that really makes no sense.”

After the aforementioned investigation, Jacobs was censured, stripped of her commission placements and asked to resign twice by two different Councils. She refused, which prompted a group called Concerned Citizens of Columbia Heights to launch a petition calling for a recall election.

The petition needed to collect 1,880 signatures to trigger this special election. Beginning on May 30 of last year, the petition collected thousands of signatures over 30 days. As the initial verified signatures were not enough, the petition was granted an additional ten days to correct and gain new signatures. Ultimately, the petition received over 2,000 signatures, and the recall election was scheduled for February 13, 2024.

Before this, however, Jacobs, who is known for not giving up without a fight, sued the City of Columbia Heights on September 20 last year. 

“I made two main arguments: first, Minnesota law provides that an elected city official may only be removed from office if he/she [is] accused of (or commits) malfeasance or nonfeasance in office,” Jacobs’ attorney Greg Joseph said. “[Second,] to bring about a recall election, a group of voters has to collect signatures on a form, and then turn everything over to city officials to make sure they were legally collected and that they meet the requirements established by state law. The recall petition against KT Jacobs did comply with the city charter, but it was noncompliant with the state law in at least 10 ways.”

On November 20, 2023, Anoka County judge Karin McCarthy sided with the City of Columbia Heights, denying Jacobs’ petition, and thus, the election continued as planned. After McCarthy’s ruling, Jacobs appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which granted accelerated review of the case. Verbal arguments took place last month on February 7.

Two days later—four days before the special election was scheduled to take place, the Supreme Court sided with Jacobs, ruling that no malfeasance had occurred. As a result, the ruling reversed the district court’s ruling and canceled the special election. 

The recall team was frustrated with the ruling, to say the least. They were also concerned about the attorneys involved in the recall.

“It was a real gut punch,” Pyper-Muno said. “The questioning of [Attorney Bradley Kletscher] made me nervous that it could go either way.”

Meanwhile, the recall and lawsuit process took a toll on Jacobs’ health. 

“This has been a very difficult 14 months and counting,” Jacobs said in an early interview with FOX 9.  “I have remained quiet as misinformation and lies have been circulated about me. I sat quietly as vile comments, death threats, and the threat of our home being burned down, put my and my husband’s well-being in jeopardy.”

Despite the recall petition’s failure, voters can still decide whether or not to re-elect Jacobs in the general election in November — should she choose to run again. Regardless, much of the CH community hopes for any and all prospective council members to respect the backgrounds and cultures of CH’s ever-changing population. 

“What I know for certain is that anyone who plans to run for public office in this wonderfully diverse city I love [must hold] the expectations and treatment of its residents to the highest standard,” Pyper-Muno said.

 As of the Heights Herald’s print deadline, Jacobs has not indicated if she is running for re-election.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Jack Israelson
Jack Israelson, Staff Writer

Jack Israelson (he/him) is many things: a barista, youth commissioner, bowler, photographer, actor, video editor and the Vice President of GSA at Columbia Heights High School. Now, he's also a writer for The Heights Herald. He's passionate about cities and urban planning. Outside of school, Jack likes to ride his bike, play on his computer and hang out with his friends.