State senator blasts fellow DFLers for role in Community Action scandal

State Sen. Barb Goodwin
State Sen. Barb Goodwin

A DFL senator is calling out Rep. Keith Ellison and other party associates for their involvement — or lack thereof — in the Community Action mess. Says Aaron Rupar at City Pages, “Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-Columbia Heights), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, says she first raised questions about Community Action’s budget back in 1997. In the wake of the recent state audit becoming news, she’s calling for the organization’s chief executive, Bill Davis, to be criminally prosecuted. … Members of Community Action’s board during the time in which funds were allegedly misappropriated included a number of prominent DFLers, including Keith Ellison, state Sen. Jeff Hayden, and Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson.”

Yeah, a two-page handout should take care of it. The Star Tribune’s Libor Jany has a piece on Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau’s press conference Wednesday. Harteau spoke amid lingering criticism for not meeting with concerned residents and then for abruptly canceling her appearance at a potentially testy gathering last week. It also came after a string of shootings left at least three people dead and 16 wounded across the city, including a triple shooting early Tuesday at a south Minneapolis gas station. Minneapolis police released a two-page handout showing the steps they have taken to reach out to the community and quell violence around the city.

Busted. Randy Furst’s Strib story says, “A drug-trafficking operation run out of a Spring Lake Park auto repair shop was busted in a series of raids Wednesday morning. In early morning raids, authorities converged with search warrants on residences in Minnesota, California and Illinois, made arrests and seized evidence. Twelve people, including six from Minnesota, have been indicted on a charge of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana in Minnesota, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger announced.”

Usually the better course of action: Tom Krisher of the AP says, “The families of two Wisconsin teenagers killed in a car crash involving a faulty General Motors ignition switch have dropped their lawsuit against the company and are seeking a settlement with the automaker. The Oct. 24, 2006, crash that killed Natasha Weigel, who was 18, and Amy Rademaker, who was 15, was among the first blamed on the faulty switches, and evidence from the crash exposed how GM and federal regulators missed clues that could have prompted a recall of the cars as early as seven years ago.”

Strib business columnist Lee Schafer talks up the boss of the Paul Bunyan Communications co-op. The topic? A rural fiber optic internet. “One of Gary Johnson’s fears when he announced the 5,000-square-mile ‘GigaZone’ ultrahigh speed Internet service last week in Bemidji was that someone might reach the badly mistaken conclusion that it was easy to build that kind of rural broadband capability. … he’s nothing but a fan of public financing for broadband like Minnesota’s new $20 million broadband grant program. The company would take any help it could get to continue to expand Paul Bunyan’s network.” There should be more where that is coming from.

Bear researcher Lynn Rogers is no closer to getting back to work. Says Steve Karnowski for the AP: “In a decision announced Wednesday, DNR administrator Kent Lokkesmoe backed an administrative law judge who ruled in May that the state agency had the authority to refuse to renew Lynn Rogers’ permit for collaring the bears. The DNR had cited concerns about public safety and conduct by Rogers that it considered unprofessional, such as hand-feeding bears to gain their trust. The department also questioned the validity of his research.”

AG Lori Swanson is suing a Texas company selling funky car warranties. Jennifer Bjorhus of the Strib reports, “Auto warranty companies have been a perennial source of trouble for consumers, from annoying robocalls and deceptive warranties to companies collapsing and leaving policyholders on the hook. In an interview, Swanson said she thinks the improving economy is creating an opening for bad sales practices. ‘These companies really seem to be on the uptick here,’ she said.”

A second-grader. MPR’s Matt Sepic reports on today’s priest sex abuse legal action. “A Minnesota woman is speaking publicly about sexual abuse she says she suffered at the hands of one of the nation’s most notorious predator priests. Linda Carroll said the Rev. James Porter assaulted her repeatedly in 1969 and 1970 when she was a second-grader at St. Philip’s school in Bemidji. Carroll is suing the Diocese of Crookston, which employed Porter for a short time, claiming the diocese created a public nuisance. She said she hopes going public will encourage other victims to come forward. In her lawsuit, she’s known as Jane Doe 24.”

Big Gummint … when you need it. Says Peter Cox for MPR, “Farmers and ranchers in 49 Minnesota counties may qualify for low interest emergency loans because of damage from early summer storms and flooding, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.”

Interesting piece by Robbie Feinberg at City Pages on Wall St. giant Blackstone Group’s residential housing rental scheme. The story begins with a mold-ridden house in St. Paul … . “The connection between [Christine] Anderson’s landlord, Invitation Homes, and the Wall Street firm the Blackstone Group isn’t obvious. Houses are only a tiny part of the global investment firm’s business. The company invests in a little bit of everything — real estate, hotels, the Weather Channel, Sea World. Name it, and there’s a chance Blackstone’s got a stake in it. The company entered the landlord game only two years ago. Wall Street’s last foray into the housing market had left the nation strewn with abandoned and foreclosed homes. Add declining incomes and tightened credit, and people could no longer afford to buy. They wanted to rent. For Blackstone, the solution was obvious. Take all that big Wall Street cash. Buy homes in bulk. Rent them out. … It was a giant bet. In just two years, Invitation purchased nearly 45,000 homes, spending $8.7 billion from Phoenix to Chicago, Tampa to St. Paul. Twelve hundred houses have been purchased in the Twin Cities alone.”

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/25/2014 - 06:48 am.

    Community Action bottom line

    What is the bottom line on any charity if you are looking to dontate? The percentage of administrative costs. I heard on TV last night that 50% of their money went to administration. Today’s Trib says the budget for next year was planned at 68%. How could you be on the board and not know that fundamental fact? A guy in Ellison’s position lends credibility to any organization on who’s board he sits so he has an obligation to be well informed of its finances. He either knew about the 50% and condoned it or he is negligent in the extreme. I’ve been a backer of his these last several years but no more.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/25/2014 - 08:46 am.

      In part, it’s a corrupted governance issue,…

      …as the appointed (or elected?) Board members are free to NOT serve – rather, their responsibilities are taken over by their personally hand-picked replacements.

      This weird scheme stinks, and it’s something I’ve never heard of before, but maybe it’s practiced elsewhere and I never noticed.

      I agree with your approach of holding Ellison accountable despite his selection of someone else to actually hold his seat on the Board.

      It appears that Davis has used CA to feather his nest for a long time, and these replacement board members are no doubt subject to some influence by the luxury trips, etc., paid for by the funders of CA.

      Then there’s the chicanery of Sen. Hayden, who appoints his wife – and despite continuing to get the benefits of Board membership, now, in mock outrage, points the finger at Davis. How high-minded !!

      We can use our common sense to avoid giving to a charity that has huge administrative expenses, but when it’s public money, we have to rely on the parties doling out the grants to do their homework. That function failed as well.

  2. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 09/25/2014 - 09:10 am.

    It reminds me…

    of a line in the movie, Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here” as Captain Renault is handed his winnings.

  3. Submitted by Pat McGee on 09/25/2014 - 10:06 am.

    Chief

    It is time for the Chief to resign. She has no support in the department; having amply demonstrated that she is only a photo-op chief with no interest in the community or communication and/or transparency. Clearly recent events have shown the community has no faith her ability to lead. Or, even of her interest.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/25/2014 - 10:20 am.

    Our Programmed Blind Spots Determine Trust

    that maybe we shouldn’t grant.

    Let’s face it, the MOST liberal and MOST conservative politicians, and many of their supporters have programmed blind spots,…

    blinds spots which result from the things that have happened to them earlier in their lives.

    Extreme Conservatives have a terrible tendency to trust, without question, those in positions of power and authority and those who are fabulously wealthy,…

    as long as those wealthy and powerful folks give the appearance of agreeing with them on key issues (that seeming agreement on the part of wealthy and powerful people feeling, to them, like a warm blanket of security and safety they can use to fend off the way reality tends to nibble away at and threaten their “true beliefs”).

    No matter how continuously those wealthy and powerful people rip them and their constituents off (through “privatization” schemes or “bailouts” which require the middle class to cover the failed bets of fabulously wealthy financiers, for instance),…

    no matter how much they damage the ability of state and local governments to meet the legitimate needs of even those too-trusting conservatives, themselves,…

    they will NEVER notice what’s being done to them nor stop trusting those who are doing it.

    Extreme Liberals, on the other hand, are often programmed to be far too trusting of those who give the appearance of needing help or of trying to help other people, as is the case with the leadership of the “Community Action” organization.

    I suspect it would be useful for us to remember that a few hundred thousand dollars misappropriated from funds designated to help others, though regrettable and likely prosecutable,…

    is but a single microscopic droplet as compared to the sea of economic malfeasance and financial damage that was done (and continues to be done) to our nation by our wealthy and powerful friends of Wall Street and the biggest investment banks, hedge funds and private equity funds,…

    day in and day out,…

    as they strip the remaining members of American Middle Class of their property, their income, their well being, any hope they ever had of a comfortable retirement,…

    and, for NO OTHER reason than the massive billions to be made in war profiteering, react with glee at the thought of sending other people’s sons and daughters off to be killed or wounded in another war,…

    even as they do their very damndest to be sure that those who profit most from that (and recent) wars pay as little as possible (preferably nothing) to take care of the needs of those physically and/or psychologically wounded or disabled in those wars.

    So pick your bitter pill to swallow, but, although it may go down hard, the “Community Action” pill isn’t likely to kill us.

    The other comes closer to containing pure caustic soda every day.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/25/2014 - 11:20 am.

      Wow, Greg…

      So because the CA people are small potatoes compared to the Kochs we should excuse this? I believe in being on the side that is right, not just more right. This Davis is doing exactly what you are blaming the rich of doing: taking advantage of the system. I don’t care if Davis and I vote the same way, he is wrong, I think, and should pay the price. That droplet of a few hundred thousand dollars could have made a huge difference to the individuals it should have gone to. Your diatribe won’t bring an end to stupid, unjust wars, but maybe some community pressure can get some heating assistance to a low income person who is suffering. Once people start stealing it is time to judge them on the moral spectrum, not the political spectrum.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/25/2014 - 11:50 am.

    Goodwin is a state legislator who raised questions about the Community Action of Minneapolis more than fifteen years ago. State employees’ complaints prompted the Human Services department to do an audit. My question is: Where was the annual audit of this non-profit by the MN Attorney General all this time?

    I was a member of a Minneapolis non-profit neighborhood group’s board for more than ten years, and an officer for most of those years. We had annual audits by the state, which never came up with anything except that we had (as a tiny group, with small budget) too few layers of budget review. The state audit went into everything we did, checked checks and signatures and receipts, monthly account balances and program activities fitting or not with mission–you name it. the state did a careful review. Every year.

    How come this Davis-headed group never had such a thorough state audit?

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/25/2014 - 02:25 pm.

    Where Did I Say

    that we should excuse this?

    You might more accurately conclude that I was (and am) arguing that, if we prosecute Bill Davis for his malfeasance at Community Action,…

    and hold loosely-connected politicians responsible,…

    then we blessedly well better prosecute those responsible for the malfeasance that caused the 2008 financial meltdown,…

    and those politicians who carried water for them and arranged to bail them out using public funds,…

    especially since the misdeeds of those at the top of the financial industry involved massive negligence if not outright dishonesty,…

    and the SAME financial industry leaders are still doing the SAME things in slightly different ways.

    In fact, if we had prosecuted, convicted and jailed the heads of all the “too big to fail” financial institutions the idea of “too big to fail” would hardly matter because those who then took over those institutions would no longer feel free to turn “investment” and “savings” into nothing short of handing your money over to a friend who’s lucky at the roulette wheel in hopes that he won’t lose it all and skip town.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/25/2014 - 09:55 pm.

      The schemes never cease.

      The latest continuation is the mass purchase by outside investors, at bargain prices, of single family homes in north Minneapolis, which are then re-packaged as securities – based on rental income, along with similar properties around the country.

      These bargains were made possible by the 2008 debacle authored by Wall Street. Now – in a perverse twist – a clever investment scheme cooked up on Wall Street seeks further profits, and in the process, elbows out local buyers who would be homesteaders, but lose out because the investors are paying cash money.

  7. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/25/2014 - 03:33 pm.

    Unclear on the concept.

    Ms. Carroll seems not to understand why it was her attorney sued out her claim as a Jane Doe.

    A second-grader. MPR’s Matt Sepic reports on today’s priest sex abuse legal action. “A Minnesota woman is speaking publicly about sexual abuse she says she suffered at the hands of one of the nation’s most notorious predator priests. Linda Carroll said the Rev. James Porter assaulted her repeatedly in 1969 and 1970 when she was a second-grader at St. Philip’s school in Bemidji. Carroll is suing the Diocese of Crookston, which employed Porter for a short time, claiming the diocese created a public nuisance. She said she hopes going public will encourage other victims to come forward. In her lawsuit, she’s known as Jane Doe 24.”

  8. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 09/25/2014 - 09:26 pm.

    In their own eyes…

    the only thing our friends at Community Action did wrong was to get caught.

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