Harsh words in a leaked conversation on Facebook have inspired a petition calling to censure Duluth City Council President Joel Sipress.
Screenshots of messages shared between Sipress and 8th Congressional District Chairman of the DFL Justin Perpich show foul language from Sipress, which he admits was a mistake.
"I used language in that I shouldn't have used and I regret that and I apologize for using inappropriate language," Sipress said.
Sipress said the conversation came in response to comments Perpich made about the group Duluth for Clean Water, an organization which is against PolyMet.
"I don't apologize for standing up for the good name of hard working community volunteers who are just trying to make Duluth a better place," Sipress said.
In the message, Sipress responds to Perpich, saying that Perpich was "lying about hard working local Duluth volunteers."
Those volunteers are in reference to Duluth for Clean Water, an organization which calls themselves a Minnesota non-profit and has publicly endorsed three City Council candidates in Tuesday's primary, including Sipress.
These open endorsements require official campaign filings.
The volunteer group admits they missed filing their report on time, but say their attorney will file the proper documents first thing Wednesday morning.
It's an error Sipress also acknowledges.
But Sipress said his frustration comes from Perpich calling Duluth for Clean Water a "dark money nonprofit."
"If Mr. Perpich's criticism had been limited to criticizing them for their failure to filing their report that's perfectly fair," Sipress said. "But to use the failure to file the report as a basis to claim that they're an outside interest group getting dark money, to me that's stepping over a line."
In an email to our newsroom, Perpich said he wanted to share the Facebook messages sent between himself and Sipress to bring attention to the "aggressive bullying tactics he and others within the Duluth for Clean Water group use when you speak in opposition to the group."
Perpich also shared his statement on the email PolyMet sent out Thursday to newsletter subscribers. The email urged people to educate themselves on candidate's stances on mining before voting in the City Council primary.
"Polymet sent an email to their supporter email list encouraging folks to research the candidates and where they stand on mining issues. Though, I don't agree with any corporation or dark money group like DFCW diving into elections, what Polymet did was okay. They did not mention any candidates name nor did they tell anyone how to vote. They encouraged people to do research. This is perfectly fine. What DFCW does as a dark money non profit is raise money without having to legally disclose it and tell you who they endorse and who to vote for." -- Justin Perpich
The petition on actionnetwork.org calls for the City Council to censure Sipress and for him to resign as Council president.
Some constituents have reached out the the City Council, sharing their opinions on the petition to censure Sipress. There was no mention of the petition during Monday's Council meeting. Meeting agendas for the following week are set on Thursday. The petition was created over the weekend.