Bogus letter gets to COR of Ramsey's troubles
- Article by: PAUL LEVY
- Star Tribune
- June 11, 2011 - 6:49 PM
At first glance, the mailing appeared to come from the city of Ramsey, with a return sticker depicting the suburb's COR development project.
But the unsigned letter inside talked about "secret profits," "ethics violations," and cleaning up the city "one official at a time."
"What is this?" Nancy Backous, one of thousands of residents believed to have received the letter last week, asked her husband.
Randy Backous, a Ramsey council member, and other city officials are asking the same thing, wondering who sent the four-page letter and why.
The mailing blasts the working relationship between the city and a private developing company that the letter claims is being paid nearly a half million dollars per year by the city as a broker that recruits land developers. According to the letter, Landform Professional Services has not sold any of the hundreds of acres the city hopes to develop as part of its COR project, which was previously known under different ownership as the Ramsey Town Center project.
"The CORruption of Ramsey, Minnesota" reads the logo atop the first page. The second page concludes, in large print: "The COR: Steering government contracts. Making secret profits. Ethics violations."
"I don't like this at all," said Randy Backous, one of two council members who voted against the last Landform contract, but only because he thought the city could negotiate a better deal.
"I love that people are passionate enough about the project to want their opinions to be heard, but they could do that by attending council meetings. This [letter] isn't the way to do it. This is filled with things that just aren't true."
The letter, which Ramsey residents began receiving last week, has created such a stir that Heidi Nelson, the deputy city administrator and director of community development, addressed the matter at a Rotary Club function Wednesday.
Nelson told the Star Tribune that some of the figures listed were wrong. Among the inaccuracies she found were economic figures off by tens of thousands of dollars; a misrepresentation of the number of households in Ramsey -- the letter says 6,000, but Nelson says there are 8,100; and unfair characterizations of negotiators representing Landform and Flaherty-Collins, an Indianapolis developer bidding to build a luxury apartment complex for seniors on COR property.
Landform President Darren Lazan called the letter a "suggestion of improprieties with no evidence." A deal between Landform and Flaherty-Collins is still pending city approval.
Ramsey Mayor Bob Ramsey was particularly frustrated by the letter, saying that its purpose may be to further divide an already-split council. A special election will be held Aug. 16 to fill a council seat vacated by David Jeffrey, who is battling pancreatic cancer.
The COR, when it was known as the Ramsey Town Center project, was a magnet for controversy. Last month, William Sandison, the former CEO of Community National Bank in Forest Lake, was sentenced to four months in prison for participating in a fraud scheme related to the failed project. Sandison and co-conspirators used Community National Bank to solicit other banks to finance the 320-acre mixed-use development property.
The city, which bought about half of the original project acreage out of foreclosure in 2009, renamed the project "The COR."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419
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