Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday said that a Star Tribune report of a nonprofit using state funds to subsidize cruises, a director's car lease and spa treatments was very concerning and alarming.
"I was personally really appalled," Dayton said. "I take it very seriously."
The DFL governor met with his Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and others about Community Action on Monday to further delve into its spending. As a result, two state agencies, Human Services and Commerce will immediately develop an action plan to deal with Community Action.
The Star Tribune reported on Sunday that Community Action, which drew board members from high-profile Democratic ranks, that a Human Services Department audit found " the organization’s longtime chief executive, Bill Davis, misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2011 to 2013."
Jesson said her department saw red flags in the nonprofit's administrative spending and began looking into it months ago.
"I think we've been taking this very seriously. A step at a time," she said. Community Action was given an opportunity to respond by September 1. Those responses did not assuage the worry.
"What we have seen so far has not alleviated the serious concerns we had," she said.
Jesson said the department looks into state subsidized nonprofit spending and results and audits those that do not comply with best practices.
Jesson said that Dayton's budget two years ago included more funding for Human Services auditing.
Monday morning, Dayton did not say definitively whether Community Action would receive any more state funding.
"Give us an opportunity here to converse among ourselves," and the city of Minneapolis, he said. Dayton said he only became aware of the spending when the Star Tribune reported it on Sunday.
Community Action, which is supposed to help low-income city residents, included state Sen. Jeff Hayden, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson and City Council Member Robert Lilligren on its board. The Star Tribune reported that those elected officials sent others to board meetings in their stead.
Dayton said the party affiliation of the board members -- they are Democrats -- did not change his feelings about the nonprofit's spending.
"I would be very alarmed if there were Democrats involved, I would very alarmed if there were not Democrats involved," Dayton said. "The fact that there were people who were placed in positions of responsibility who allegedly...spent public funds inappropriately, particularly funds that were intended to help people get out of poverty, is very disturbing to me."
A $3 million disaster contingency fund will likely cover the state’s share of nearly $41 million in summer storm damage until the Legislature reconvenes in January 2015, according to analysis by state officials.
The memo to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders from Minnesota Management Commissioner Jim Schowalter and and Budget and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Kris Eide outlines the plan to cover the $40.8 million in damages caused by severe storms and flooding following assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
According to FEMA, 37 Minnesota counties and three tribal governments qualify under the President’s Disaster Declaration, meaning the federal government will cover 75 percent of the damage costs, leaving the state on the hook for $10.2 million. Between staggered withdrawals from the $3 million allocated by the Legislature, and advances from the Department of Revenue, there will likely be no need to call the Legislature to a special session to allocate more disaster money.
“We anticipate the existing appropriation will be sufficient to reimburse communities for the 25% non-federal share of the FEMA Public Assistance payments due between now and January 20145.” The memo read, adding that priority will be given to areas that suffered more significant damages.
Read the entire memo here:
By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Below, you can dig even deeper by looking at some of the underlying data.
The House district voting history accounts for redistricting by analyzing precinct voting results to show how the voters in the new districts voted in past elections.
In the below spreadsheet you can scroll back and forth and up and down to view all the data.
* I = incumbent
Photo: screenshot of the interactive House tool
By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Over the weekend, the Star Tribune launched an interactive graphic to dive into district-by-district voting trends in House districts and allow readers to make their own election forecast for this year's House election.
You can see and play with that graphic here. You can share your predictions on social media and we will track all the predictions for further reports.
The data online involves not only the current members of the House and the 2014 election but analyzing the election results from past elections. Because of decennial redistricting, this involved analyzing precinct voting results to show how the voters in the new districts voted in past elections.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota has found a new Democratic operative to direct its operation through the election, the group announced.
Ben Goldfarb, who ran Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's first campaign and has been active in other campaigns, will guide the big spending Democratic interest group as a senior strategic advisor. Goldfarb is currently the executive director of Wellstone Action, which trains "progressive" candidates.
Carrie Lucking, who has directed the Alliance since 2011, is leaving to work for Education Minnesota. This is her last week at the Alliance.
Education Minnesota spent nearly $5 million on political causes since 2008, including donating at least $660,000 to the Alliance's funders. The Alliance has spent more than $10 million since 2007 to get Minnesota Democrats elected.
Alliance for a Better Minnesota has already run a major television ad promoting Gov. Mark Dayton's re-elected and earlier this month ran online ads going after Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden.
Joe Davis, the Alliance's deputy director, will run the group's day-to-day operations, Alliance Communications Director Emily Bisek said.