State Attorney General Keith Ellison is suing a former Ramsey County commissioner, accusing him of mismanaging county funds given to his now-defunct veterans' charity.
The suit names Blake Huffman, the former county commissioner who resigned in June amid allegations that he violated his fiduciary duties to Journey Home Minnesota, the charity he founded.
The lawsuit accuses Huffman of "abandoning" the charity and "exposing its charitable assets to waste and impairment." At one point, Journey Home owned more than a dozen homes in Ramsey County that were rented out to needy veterans.
The suit echoed certain allegations that surfaced earlier this year, including that Journey Home had stopped paying mortgages on several properties, allowed others to fall into disrepair, defaulted on loans and failed to pay contractors, engineers and architects for services rendered, leading to one lawsuit after another. It asks that a receiver be appointed to take over its affairs and "dissolve the corporation."
The charity "failed to respond to several of these lawsuits and now faces default judgments totaling more than $485,000," the suit says. "Publicly available data shows that at least seven of its properties are now in foreclosure, and multiple reports indicate that Journey Home owes thousands in back taxes."
Court records show at least seven lawsuits have been filed against Huffman, 55, and Journey Home in Ramsey County District Court this year.
In a statement that accompanied the lawsuit, Ellison said that the charity had betrayed the "generosity and trust" of taxpayers by misappropriating county-allocated affordable housing funds.
"Minnesotans want everyone to be able to afford their lives and live with the same dignity and respect that they want for themselves and their own families. They know everyone needs stable, affordable housing, especially people in crisis, and they're willing to open their wallets to help," Ellison said. "If nonprofits and their executives don't use Minnesotans' money for the purposes they gave it, I'll hold them to account."
Huffman, a former Wells Fargo vice president, was elected to the Ramsey County Board in 2012 and resigned in June after an investigation revealed that his charity had received $60,000 from the county to buy two homes for needy families and then sold one of them to Huffman's son Zach.
At the time, Huffman said the charity was in financial trouble.
In August, Ellison's office sent Huffman an order to produce, among other things, information and documents about the charity's properties, the identity of its tenants and people to whom it had sold properties, details about its solicitation practices, and information about the charity's and Huffman's relationships with various third parties, according to the suit. To date, the suit alleges, Huffman hasn't responded to the order, known as a civil investigative demand.
A monthslong investigation into the charity found that Huffman and Journey Home board members and officers "had engaged in self-interested related party transactions, breached trust by failing to properly administer and manage property held for a charitable purpose, employed misleading solicitation practices by representing that funds would be used by (the charity) to provide low-cost housing to persons in need who did not actually receive such housing, and failed to abide by various provisions of the Minnesota Nonprofit Corporations Act," the suit said.
Staff writer Shannon Prather contributed to this report.