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DHS official approved payments to nonprofit while serving on group’s board

Plus: Shakopee school reports 300 kids absent due to flu; Minnesota AG Keith Ellison files suit against former Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman; St. Paul’s Happy Gnome to close; and more.

Jodi Harpstead
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead
Says Glenn Howatt in the Star Tribune, “A senior official at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) approved thousands of dollars in payments to a private organization while he was serving on its board of directors. Documents obtained by the Star Tribune show that former Assistant Commissioner Nathan Moracco signed contracts and payment authorizations with the nonprofit Minnesota Health Action Group, an organization that ran a quality improvement program to provide better care for Medicaid enrollees. Moracco has been on its board since 2004 and was the board chair in 2015 and 2016.”

Says Tim Nelson for MPR,The wife of the man shot and killed by Minneapolis police on Sunday says she didn’t think he posed a threat to officers. Mai Pha Vue identified the man killed by police as her husband, Chiasher Fong Vue, in an interview with MPR News. She said she believed he did have a gun before a confrontation with police, but denied he’d fired it before police arrived. … Police said officers shot a suspect after he came out of the home, in what the department called an armed confrontation.”

KSTP-TV reports: “A Shakopee middle school reported over 300 students absent due to flu-related illnesses on Monday. According to Shakopee Public Schools, West Middle School reported 322 student absences on Monday, which is approximately 28% of the student body (1,165 students). Last week, Sun Path Elementary, which is in the Shakopee school district, reported 100 student absences due to flu-related illnesses.”

Says Adam Uren for BringMeTheNews, “A Minneapolis woman is being paid $1,000 to watch 24 Hallmark Christmas movies in the space of 12 days. Jasmine Stringer, an entrepreneur behind the companies JB Stringer and lifestyle brand Carpe Diem with Jasmine, was announced on Thursday as the winner of the contest run by The Century Link sales agency said it received a whopping 218,000 entries for the competition, but Hallmark superfan Stringer was the standout entry. Stringer already hosts annual Hallmark movie night parties for her friends where they select the cheesiest Hallmark movie possible to watch, with the dress code strictly limited to pajamas.”

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The Star Tribune’s Torey Van Oot says, “Max Mason was one of several black circus workers accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old Duluth woman in 1920. Three were lynched from a lightpole by an angry mob of residents. Only two went to trial, and Mason, then 21, was the only one convicted in a case that has been mired in controversy ever since. On Monday, Minnesota’s Board of Pardons, including Gov. Tim Walz, approved a request that could clear the way for Mason’s eventual posthumous pardon, a move supporters say would restore justice for a man they believe was falsely accused in a ‘horrific and shameful episode in Minnesota history.’”

At MPR, Matt Sepic reports, “Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed suit Monday against former Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman, alleging Huffman used a nonprofit he founded to benefit himself and his family. Huffman set up Journey Home Minnesota in 2008 with the stated purpose of providing affordable housing to veterans. However at least seven of the organization’s properties have fallen into foreclosure, and the group owes thousands in back taxes, according to the lawsuit. Journey Home also has been sued by creditors, contractors, and architects for unpaid bills.”

For the Pioneer Press, Nancy Ngo says, “After 14 years, the Happy Gnome in St. Paul will close after the weekend. Sunday will be the last day for the Selby Avenue hangout. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page states, ‘We are sad to announce that The Happy Gnome has decided not to renew our lease. Our last day in business will be Sunday, December 22. Thank you for 14 wonderful years of memories. Please stop by this week for one more pint with us’!”

Also from KSTP-TV: “The Mall of America is one step closer to adding an indoor water park.  At its Monday night meeting, the Bloomington City Council approved the development plan for the park. The 335 thousand square foot facility would go up just north of the mall, with a connection built over Lindau Lane.”

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