The Minneapolis City Council council approved a $3.075 million settlement on Friday to resolve a federal law suit filed by the family of David Smith, a 28-year-eight old Minneapolis man, who was killed during a struggle with two police officers at the downtown Minneapolis YMCA in 2010.
(Video above was produced on Feb. 6, 2012.)
The settlement is the second largest payout for a police misconduct lawsuit in the history of Minneapolis. The city will pay the Smith family $1.1 million and $1.975 million in attorneys fees to the Minneapolis law firm of Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp. It's second only to the $4.5 million paid in 2007 to a Minneapolis officer shot by another officer.
The death of Smith raised questions about putting a suspect on his stomach, and holding him down by putting knees on his back, known as prone restraint. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.
In a statement issued after the council action, Susan Segal, Minneapolis city attorney said "today's settlement is a responsible way to bring this to a close in the face of mounting legal costs that would continue to grow significantly through a trial."
The record for fund-raising in the relatively new category of district seats on the Minneapolis school board has jumped again, thanks to an amended report by a teacher-backed political fund.
The Local 59 Political Fund now reports spending just over $15,000 on behalf of Patty Wycoff in the election last fall on the West Side of Minneapolis that was won by Josh Reimnitz in a squeaker. All byt $300 of that was an independent expenditure. The new total reported in March is triple the amount disclosed by the teacher fund in January.
The total raised in the race is now more than $67,000, including both campaign and independent fundraising. That's largely swelled by the previously reported $40,000 raised by Reimnitz and his campaign committee, which is a new record for any school campaign, whether city-wide or for one of the board's six district seats. The independent spending for Reimnitz reported in January by the New York City-based 50CAN education reform advocacy arm adds $6,000.
Wycoff raised a mere $7,195, but spent $8,445, according to the campaign report. The increased amount of $15,000 spent by teacher union members somewhat reduced the campaign spending finance gap between the two candidates. But more than twice as mcuh was spent to elect Reimnitz.
Reimnitz had already eclipsed the previous funding record from 2010 set by board member Richard Mammen, who raised $34,523 in running city-wide.
Independent spending late int he cmapaign by both the union and 50CAN drew cries of foul from the opposite side. Both expenditures came late enough in the campaigns that the amounts and donors didn't have to be disclosed before Election Day.
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.
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