The former chief executive of a Minneapolis nonprofit who’s accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars is expected to plead guilty in federal court on Thursday.
Bill Davis, the former head of Community Action of Minneapolis, was set to face trial next week on more than a dozen federal theft and fraud charges of misspending taxpayer money on lavish trips, cars, gifts and other items.
A court filing says Davis intends to change his plea Thursday after first pleading not guilty last fall. Susan Gaertner, Davis’ attorney, could not be reached for comment.
Community Action of Minneapolis was a nonprofit organization intended to provide energy and heating assistance and other services to low-income residents.
Davis had insisted that he would be vindicated after a scathing Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) audit, which found that the nonprofit misspent at least $800,000 between 2011 and 2013 on everything from a car loan for Davis to travel, golf and other unauthorized expenses.
After the audit was first reported by the Star Tribune, the state raided the organization, confiscated documents and then shut it down. Davis was suspended, and several high-profile DFLers resigned from the board, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, state Sen. Jeff Hayden and several Minneapolis City Council members.
Davis’ son, Jordan Davis, also faces federal charges of accepting $140,000 in payments over four years from a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream shop run by Community Action. Federal prosecutors allege that Jordan was paid for work he did not perform for the shop. Jordan Davis was a Minneapolis police officer and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He is expected to stand trial next week.
Fred Bruno, Jordan Davis’ attorney, said Bill Davis’ plea has little impact on his client’s case. “It doesn’t affect the merits, or lack of merits, concerning the government’s case,” Bruno said.
$895 for a mattress
Bill Davis ran Community Action of Minneapolis for more than two decades. In a recent court filing, prosecutors allege that he treated the “agency’s bank account as his personal piggy bank.”
Between 2009 and 2014, Davis racked up an average of $4,000 to $6,000 per month on the organization’s credit card, and prosecutors allege that many of those charges were for Davis’ personal expenses.
He paid for vacations for himself “and five different girlfriends to locations like Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, the Bahamas, Phoenix and Key West,” prosecutors said.
Even while under the scrutiny of the DHS, Davis traveled to Washington, D.C., where he allegedly spent $895 in Community Action funds “on a new mattress for his sometimes girlfriend, R.Z.,” according to court records. State auditors were attempting to reach Davis to discuss their draft report while he was on that trip.
The hearing on Davis’ change of plea is expected at 8 a.m. in the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.
Trial is still on for his son
Jordan Davis is still expected to stand trial next week on theft and fraud charges.
Federal prosecutors allege that Bill Davis ordered that Jordan Davis be paid more than $140,000 from a “slush fund” that should have gone toward heating and energy assistance.
Jordan Davis allegedly was paid as manager of the Ben & Jerry’s even after he quit that job and became a police officer in 2008.
Officials say that when Jordan Davis was confronted by law enforcement agents last summer, he said that he served as a “consultant” for the Ben & Jerry’s while he was a police officer. He said he would bring supplies to the store, get supplies from Costco and order supplies from the ice-cream supplier.
Federal prosecutors said in court records that the evidence will show that Jordan Davis’ statements were false and that “for approximately four years, in exchange for continuing to receive his full paycheck from the Ben & Jerry’s, Jordan Davis did nothing.”