Mark Rotenberg has resigned as general counsel at the University of Minnesota to become vice president and general counsel of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., the U of M announced today. He will move to his new position on June 3.
Rotenberg has been general counsel at the U for 20 years and his career was intertwined with many of the biggest news stories that came out of the university, many having to do with athletics. Those included the paper-writing scandal under Gopher basketball coach Clem Haskins, the negotiation of the naming rights and sponsorship of the TCF Bank Football Stadium, and the lease for the Vikings to play on campus after the Metrodome roof collapse.
He served under four presidents and 11 Board of Regents chairs.
He also created "an in-house team of legal experts in transactional law which covers a range of legal issues including technology commercialization, patents, copyrights, trademarks, real estate, public finance and other areas," the U news release said.
Rotenberg is quoted in the release as saying, "It has been a great honor to represent the University of Minnesota as general counsel for the past two decades. While it's terribly difficult to leave the U, and the Golden Gophers will always have a place in my heart, Johns Hopkins offers a unique and very special professional opportunity that I cannot pass up."
The release also quoted University President Erc Kaler as saying, "Mark has epitomized the kind of integrity and accountability that all public institutions like ours strive for. His record of success spans the legal spectrum from litigation to transactional matters, to building one of the finest offices of general counsel at any university in the country. I will miss his legal acumen and his deep knowledge of the University of Minnesota."
Linda Cohen, chair of the Board of Regents, said in the release that the regents are "deeply grateful to Mark Rotenberg for his years of distinguished service to the University of Minnesota." She said he had provided "wise counsel" to the board and its 11 chairs and it was with "mixed feelings" that she congratulated him on his appointment to "prestigious" Johns Hopkins. "The University of Minnesota will miss his thoughful expertise and guidance," she stated.
Rotenberg was not immediately available for an interview. Tombarge said he was meeting with staff at Johns Hopkins today.
When the news broke last summer that charter school entrepreneur Eric Mahmoud had entered a guilty plea to a mortgage fraud charge in Georgia, Mahmoud had a ready comeback for the Minneapolis school district, under whose authorization he was opening another charter school.
“I assure you that this was a personal, residential matter in Georgia and had nothing to do with Seed Daycare, Harvest Prep or any other educational institution,” Mahmoud told Sara Paul, the district’s liaison with charter schools, in an Aug. 16 e-mail.
In that case, Mahmoud has some explaining to do.
According to an investigative file compiled by Georgia authorities, there are at least two connections involving the school with the deal.
First, one participant in the real estate deal that led to the charges against Mahmoud told Gwinnett County police investigators that he met twice with Mahmoud in his office, weeks before the fraudulent deal was to close. The purpose was for the purported buyer to supply financial data for the deal. When that buyer noticed that the loan information on a completed application was misleading, the man told investigators, Mahmoud and his associate assured him that the deal was legal.
The second school connection is even more explicit. Days before the planned closing, a letter was sent on Seed Academy and Harvest Preparatory School letterhead. The letter presents a demand for payment of $350,000 to Mahmoud from the planned real estate closing. The letter over the signature of Aretta-Rie Johnson said that she had been retained by Mahmoud to make the payment demand.
Johnson said that she has no specific recollection of the letter but that she worked for Mahmoud’s school during that school year on contract. “When you’re an administrative person, you just do what people tell you to do,” she said. She has also served on Mahmoud's Seed, which provides services for the schools.
Mahmoud said he would not comment on the evidence. There is no evidence that his schools stood to profit from the attempted deal.
The Minnesota Department of Education said through chief of staff Charlene Briner:: “It appears the state cannot prohibit a public school from hiring an individual with a criminal background, nor can the state be considered responsible for criminal activity that may take place in a school, particularly when that criminal conduct is not related to educational matters. “
“That said, the use of school letterhead and the fact that a school employee was involved with, or asked to facilitate a transaction appears to warrant further review. MDE is assessing the need, if any, for additional action based upon this information.”
This blog told you earlier this month that 17 Minneapolis voting precincts failed the suggestion by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office that precincts contain no more than 2,500 voters
That was then, based on the number of preregistered voters on Election Day. Now an update based on those added to the rolls through Election-Day registration shows that the number of stuffed precincts has jumped to 25.
Four of those precincts have more than 3,000 registered voters, according to an updated voting list from the Secretary of State, led by 3,593 people registered to vote at Sibley Park in the 12th Ward.
But the ward with the most stuffed precincts is the 13th Ward in southwest Minneapolis, where six of nine precincts were over the 2,500-voter threshold. The 13th is traditionally a one of the city’s highest-turnout wards.
But despite its bulging voter rolls, the 13th has none of the 11 problem precincts identified by the City Clerk’s office. Those are precincts where the location or capacity of the voting place, its accessibility, parking or other factors helped create delays of up to several hours in voting, and where the city is focusing efforts at correcting conditions.
Of course, lines can have nothing to do with the facility. Areas with high numbers of mobile residents, such as renters or students, are more likely to be bogged down with lines for Election-Day registrants. So are areas where higher numbers of voters speak other languages. That’s one reason that the city is backing state legislation to permit early voting, which would allow residents to cast ballots and a voting center before Election Day.
For the record, here is the city’s list of problematic precincts: Ward 2 Precinct 9, Seward Towers East; 3-3, Marcy Open School; 3-4, Spring Manor Highrise; 5-6, Heritage Commons; 6-2, Stevens Square Apartments; 8-2, Painter Park; 8-5 Watershed High School; 10-2, Ballentine VFW Post; 12-3, St. Peder’s Evangelical Lutheran Church; 12-6, Minnehaha United Methodist Church; and 12-8, Sibley Park.
The clerk’s office is planning an annual assessment of all polling places.
By Matt McKinney
A police measure of citywide gunplay showed a slight rise in the number of incidents last year, the first time that’s happened in at least five years, according to new analysis from the Minneapolis Police Department.
The finding, released Tuesday in a city report, said police responded to 1,335 incidents involving guns last year. The police took that count by searching their records for all incidents in which a person was shot or shot at, reported a gunshot wound, reported the discharge of a weapon, or otherwise reported that a gun was used.
The rise amounts to a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year, when 1,290 such incidents were reported. That number stood at 1,978 in 2007 and had been steadily dropping until last year.
News of the rise comes one week after President Obama stopped in Minneapolis to praise local efforts to reduce gun violence.
More broadly, serious crime rose in Minneapolis last year for the third consecutive year. The number of people shot remained nearly unchanged from a year ago, with 220 reported in 2012 compared to 221 in 2011.
Those numbers do not equal the number of homicides reported in the city since many of those victims survived. The city saw 391 people shot in 2006, with the number of victims mostly falling since then.
Faced with a rise in serious crime in the past three years, city officials have emphasized that overall crime levels remain at historic lows, with overall violent crime (a subset of serious crime) at its second-lowest level since 1983.
Has cost-cutting gone too far in Minneapolis when it comes to designing election precincts?
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office recommends that election precincts hold no more than 2,000 to 2,500 voters, measured by the number preregistering and not counting those who register on Election Day.
Minneapolis had 17 precincts of more than 2,500 preregistered voters last November, according to a Star Tribune analysis of election data. The biggest was 3,912 in Ward 6, Precinct 4 in the Whittier neighborhood. That means that one out of every seven precincts was stuffed beyond the state’s guideline.
The city cut the number of precincts from 131 to 117 for the 2012 elections, a cost-cutting move that saved $30,000. It also reduced the number of big precincts slightly, from the 21 that had more than 2,500 voters in the last presidential election in 2008. Seven of the 14 eliminated precincts had more than 3,000 voters, so the city clerk’s office said this actually evened out the number of voters per precinct.
The vote-rich 11th and 13th Wards, in the city’s southeastern and southwestern corners, had the most overstuffed precincts with four apiece, followed by the Second and Eighth Wards, with two precincts each exceeding the guidelines.
Minneapolis had 182 precincts in 1990, with an average of 1,237 voters per precinct. That average was 1,829 in 2012, and if the last year’s presidential election had drawn the same turnout as 2008, the average number of voters per precinct would have topped 2,050.
Arguably, the city has too few precincts for presidential elections, like this year when a variety of snafus produced lines that lasted hours at a few precincts. But just as arguably, it operates too many precincts for low-turnout years like 2009, when far fewer voters turned out in a lackluster municipal election year. The problem faced by the council in drawing precinct lines is striking a balance that serves both.
Council Member Cam Gordon, who chairs the Elections Committee, said it will get an update on Feb. 27 on efforts to address the long voting lines at some precincts. But he cautioned that the simple number of voters may not be the prime factor causing voting delays. More important are such factors as the number of voters registering on Election Day, the number of people needing interpreters and how adequately the facility can accommodate those who turn out.
And if those in the 17 Minneapolis precincts with more than 2,500 voters want to feel sorry for themselves, consider the state’s largest precinct in Monticello. It had 6,164 preregistered voters.
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