Less than a week after it was revealed she made false statements to the City Council about a taxpayer-funded Black expo, Minneapolis' top race and equity official is out, and the city auditor's office is opening a probe into the event.
Tyeastia Green, who was hired a year ago to head what became the Department of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, served her final day as a city employee Monday, city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said.
The flurry of developments — Green's sudden departure and the launch of a multistage probe by the auditor's office — highlight the intense scrutiny recently put on Green and the Feb. 25 event.
On Thursday, the Star Tribune reported that Green falsely told the City Council that the Bush Foundation had been prepared to donate $3 million for the event. In fact, the city never formally applied for any money from the St. Paul-based foundation, according to the Bush Foundation and a subsequent statement from the city.
In a response to the Star Tribune on Tuesday, Green said, "I put in my resignation" Feb. 21 "for several reasons." She didn't elaborate.
The city declined to respond directly to a request to verify Green's characterization. "The reasons for separation are not public data under the Data Practices Act," McKenzie said.
In communications to other city officials that Green provided to the Star Tribune, she stands by what she told the City Council when she said the Bush Foundation was prepared to donate $3 million but with conditions that Green couldn't meet.
The Bush Foundation on Tuesday reiterated its position that no such offer ever existed. "That is not true," spokesperson Kari Ruth said when presented with details of Green's account.
In response, Green said, "At this point it's he said, she said."
The developments raised a number of questions surrounding the planning of the I Am My Ancestors' Wildest Dream Expo, which drew far fewer attendees than initially hoped and required a late influx of taxpayer money.
For example, Green also told council members that she had secured some $200,000 from four organizations, perhaps local corporations. She suggested the city had to "return" that amount because she unknowingly violated the city ethics code in how she solicited the donations — the same explanation she suggested for being unable to accept the non-existent $3 million from the Bush Foundation.
The status of the purported $200,000 remains unclear, and Green has never provided an explanation for the statements surrounding the Bush Foundation, at least not publicly.
Green's comments to the full council came during a Feb. 17 emergency meeting to plug a budget hole for the expo just over a week before it was held. It was the city's first African American-centered event following the 2020 Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.
Green said she had been caught off-guard by certain requirements of the Minneapolis Convention Center, which hosted the event, and that prompted her to seek an increase in the city contract with Touched Apparel, an Atlanta-based company hired as event planner.
The owner of Touched Apparel, Casey Ellerby, worked with Green on at least one event in Burlington, Vt., when Green was that city's director of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging before being hired by Minneapolis, where she is originally from.
Although several council members left the meeting with questions, the council approved plugging the hole with an additional $145,000, apparently bringing the total budget for the event to upward of $500,000.
The city auditor's office is poised to begin trying to get to the bottom of the funding and planning surrounding the event.
On Monday, council members and Mayor Jacob Frey were informed the office will embark on a three-stage examination of the event, according to an email from council Vice President Linea Palmisano.
Palmisano also is chair of the Minneapolis Audit Committee, an independent panel that includes members of the City Council, as well as other officials and community members.
Palmisano said the plan for the auditor's role emerged after meetings and conversations that included Audit Committee Vice Chair David Fisher and City Auditor Ryan Patrick.
Here's the three-stage approach, as it stood Monday evening, according to Palmisano's email:
- Patrick "indicated the need for a formal review in response to external concerns" over the expo. That language suggests such a review could look for any potential waste or fraud and is the type of action Patrick has the authority to conduct on his own.
- In addition, Patrick "believes he is obligated to conduct a review of city processes related to the Expo." This review, distinct from the first, can be conducted at the direction of Palmisano and Fisher, and Palmisano's email said they directed Patrick to proceed.
- Lastly, Patrick "further suggests this review will necessitate a more comprehensive audit." The audit, which would consider how to avoid future problems, will be the subject of the Audit Committee's next scheduled meeting April 24.
It wasn't clear Monday evening what the city plans to do to replace Green, who oversaw at least four employees in her fledgling department, which falls under interim City Operations Officer Heather Johnston.