How does Mayor Mike Brown’s veto power work, and how might he exercise it?

It’s a question that came up more than once at a Wednesday night meeting among residents of Grand Forks’ third and fourth wards as government leaders consider, for the umpteenth year, where to build a bridge over the Red River into East Grand Forks.

City council members on both sides of the river voted to approve a long-range transportation plan that includes a bridge at 32nd Avenue South and another, less contentious one south of town at Merrifield Road. Brown, who said he prefers a bridge at 47th Avenue, instead, plans to veto any city spending measure that includes money for a 32nd Avenue bridge.

But Brown can’t veto the council’s December vote to approve the transportation plan. If he were to veto a resolution related to the planned 32nd Avenue bridge, it would presumably be one apportioning money for its study or construction, City Administrator Todd Feland confirmed.

If Brown were to veto a council resolution -- on a 32nd Avenue bridge or otherwise -- it would be a rare move, according to interviews with city staff. City Attorney Howard Swanson couldn’t immediately recall if Brown, who’s been the city’s mayor since 2000, has ever used his veto power.

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City Council member Bret Weber, who was first elected in 2012, told attendees at a Wednesday night neighborhood meeting that a mayoral veto is “extraordinary to (his) experience” and said he plans to ask Swanson about the mayor’s veto power when the council meets on Monday.

Here’s what Swanson told the Herald on Thursday:

  • Brown’s veto power extends to any resolution or ordinance the city council approves, but he must exercise it within 10 days of council members’ vote.

  • Council members could override that veto if at least five of the seven of them vote to do so. If the mayor vetoes a resolution, council members have until their next regularly scheduled meeting to override it.

  • Beyond that, Brown lacks the power to “pocket veto” a resolution, which is a move where an executive refuses to sign a measure and, thus, keeps it from going into effect. If Grand Forks’ mayor doesn’t sign a measure within 10 days, it is presumed to be approved.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 19.