Mpls. council president faces hearing over campaign spending

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2009 - 10:36 PM

A constituent brought a complaint against Minneapolis City Council President Johnson, who faces a hearing over her campaign spending.

A complaint that Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson used campaign funds for personal expenses such as dry cleaning and haircuts has been scheduled for a January hearing.

The complaint was brought by Warren Kaari, a constituent and retired teacher, against Johnson, who is seeking another term as council president. He complained after a November City Pages article detailed Johnson's spending, which she defended with the argument that she's always campaigning.

"It kind of made my Finnish blood boil," Kaari said in an interview Monday. "I'm so tired of dishonest people and people getting in positions of authority like that and abusing their authority... She deceived the people who trusted her. She's probably deceived herself."

Johnson declined comment Monday on the advice of her attorney after the hearing date was set.

The hearing on Jan. 26 will be held before a state panel of three administrative law judges. Kaari's complaint alleges that Johnson's spending violated the state's fair campaign practices law, which prohibits spending campaign funds for personal use.

The administrative law judges will have the power to impose a civil penalty if they find a violation of the law that defines allowable campaign expenses, and the matter then could be considered by a county attorney for potential criminal prosecution as a misdemeanor.

Kaari is basing his complaint on spending listed in campaign finance reports filed by Johnson's campaign committee. The committee's reports show numerous expenditures for hair care, dry cleaning, car insurance and cable television, as well as cell phone service to her cabin.

Johnson reported raising nearly $49,000 in campaign contributions to date for 2009, with a year-end report due next month. Of nearly $33,000 in contributions large enough to be itemized, only $650 came from addresses within her ward. Johnson had an overwhelming spending advantage over her three opponents. She polled just under 53 percent of the vote in her reelection bid.

Johnson has been consulting newly elected council members about council committees, their chairs and membership before a scheduled Jan. 4 organizational meeting of the council. Kaari sent an e-mail to council members on Saturday asking them not to name Johnson as council president.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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