Former Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman has agreed to repay $60,000 in charitable funds and has been permanently banned from operating a nonprofit in Minnesota under a settlement reached with Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Ellison’s office filed the settlement agreement Monday in Ramsey County District Court after a monthslong investigation into Huffman’s defunct charity for veterans, Journey Home Minnesota.
The charity must liquidate its assets and distribute them to a Minnesota-based veterans charity and dissolve its operations.
“Blake Huffman took advantage of Minnesotans’ trust. He exploited the sacrifices of Minnesota’s veterans to line his own pockets,” Ellison said in a written statement. “This settlement makes sure that the money will go where it’s supposed to — to help veterans afford their lives — and that Huffman will never operate a charity in Minnesota again.”
During the litigation, according to its news release, the Attorney General’s Office discovered that Huffman had misused nearly $81,000 of Journey Home’s assets. Under the settlement, Huffman agreed to repay $60,000 through a payment plan that extends through 2025.
Neither Huffman nor his attorney, Jennifer Urban, could be reached Monday for comment. Ramsey County officials declined to comment.
Huffman, a former Wells Fargo vice president, was elected to the Ramsey County Board in 2012, representing the northern portion of the county including Shoreview, Arden Hills, Vadnais Heights and North Oaks. He launched a campaign for the Republican nomination for governor in April 2017, touting his management of Journey Home Minnesota and his time on the County Board, and said at the time that Journey Home was growing statewide. He bowed out of the race five months later.
While on the County Board, he applied for and received federal housing dollars for the charity through Ramsey County. The cities of Roseville and Vadnais Heights had minor redevelopment deals with Journey Home that the charity later defaulted on.
At one point, Journey Home owned property throughout the metro area, including in Ramsey, Dakota and Anoka counties, and in northern Minnesota, according to the Attorney General’s news release.
Huffman resigned from the County Board in June 2019 after an investigation revealed that his charity, whose stated mission was to rent homes to veterans, had received thousands from Ramsey County to buy two homes for needy families and then had sold one of them to Huffman’s son.
After his resignation, Huffman appeared to abandon Journey Home. The charity stopped paying taxes and mortgages and returning phone calls. It also abandoned residential construction projects in Maplewood, North Oaks and Shoreview.
In December 2019, Ellison’s office sued Huffman for failing to properly oversee Journey Home’s charitable assets and failing to operate the nonprofit to fulfill its charitable mission.
The lawsuit alleged that Huffman, as Journey Home’s president, engaged in transactions that presented clear conflicts of interest, and that he raised tens of thousands of dollars to build a handicap-accessible home for a Minnesota family with terminally ill children, only to later abandon the project;
Huffman also was accused of attempting to cancel leases midway through tenants’ terms and to increase tenants’ rent to market rates, contrary to Journey Home’s mission.