Physical skirmishes, alleged theft and two groups claiming to be the legitimate board officers characterize the latest round of battles within a troubled north Minneapolis community group.
The Jordan Area Community Council's (JACC) infighting comes as the area, which witnessed more than its fair share of drug activity and violent crimes in recent years, grapples with one of the city's highest home foreclosure rates.
"It's a mess, it's getting very ugly, and I'm tired of it," said Anne McCandless, JACC's newly elected board secretary. "The Jordan area has a lot better things to do."
The North Side council is one of more than 70 neighborhood groups recognized by Minneapolis' nationally recognized Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP). It allows neighborhoods to use taxes from city-assisted development for priorities they set.
The NRP has received more than $300 million in public money since 1991. City Council members Barbara Johnson and Don Samuels recognized McCandless and three other new board officers -- chair Michael Browne, vice chair P.J. Hubbard and treasurer Robert Hodson -- as JACC's official board officers in two letters dated Jan. 16.
Still, the former board officers -- led by former chair E.B. Brown and former vice chair Ben Myers-- have continued to challenge the legitimacy of the Jan. 14 officer elections.
"We have some rogue individuals who believe they've taken over [JACC]," Myers said. "They've made significant moves in trying to alter the course of the organization."
Myers, Brown and other former JACC board officers filed a temporary restraining order last week against the new board officers, Johnson, Samuels, NRP official Stacy Sorenson and Minneapolis police Inspector Mike Martin.
'Cease and desist'
Myers said the officer elections weren't on the agenda of the Jan. 14 meeting and that JACC bylaws regarding the "removal" of board members weren't followed.
Brown and Myers sent two letters written on JACC stationery on Jan. 17. The first letter ordered the new officers to "cease and desist" and declared their intent to set up a new office. The second letter rescinded the firing of former executive director Jerry Moore.
Several months ago, Myers sued three Jordan residents -- Megan Goodmundson, McCandless and Dennis Wagner -- while serving as JACC board chair for harassment and making "slanderous and libelous statements" against him. The lawsuit is still pending.
"I just hope I don't get sued again," said McCandless, in light of the recent controversy.
Bob Miller, city director of NRP, said the ousted board officers have no legal standing with his office or the IRS as a nonprofit entity, and can't take actions in the group's name.
"The problems started with a group of folks who weren't happy with the way things turned out," Miller said. "They're calling themselves the JACC but they have no authority to do that."
Miller said NRP officials noticed a pattern where the council spent more than 90 percent of the $210,000 it has received since 2008 on staff salaries and other administrative costs.
Things get physical
On Jan. 12, the day of the group's general election in which six new board members were elected, Moore, the former JACC executive director, and board member P.J. Hubbard were involved in an argument at Jordan New Life Community Church that turned physical.
The Minneapolis Police Department is investigating the incident. A police report lists both men as victims. Witnesses said some bystanders, including women, were shoved.
Moore had been criticized recently by residents for not being transparent about the council's finances. McCandless said the scuffle was the "last straw" for many board members and led to his firing. Moore declined an interview request for this article.
"It's just sad; it should have never escalated to that level," said Catrice Champion, a Jordan resident.
Champion, sister-in-law of state Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, said she attended the meeting to ask questions about the council's work with young people. JACC was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from the General Mills Foundation to help Hennepin County create juvenile detention alternatives.
"[At the JACC meeting] I said, 'Who are you people? I don't know you, the kids don't know you ... You all are some nobodies sitting in here arguing over money,'" she said.
McCandless said the controversy and the fact that computers and financial records were taken from the office recently have made the transition process difficult. According to a police report dated Jan. 15, there was "no forced entry evident" and "the alarm was not triggered" during the theft.
"I'm just trying to put out fires here," McCandless said.
Miller said the NRP will work with the recognized JACC board to protect its assets and move forward with neighborhood initiatives. JACC's recent problems, he said, are unusual and the public shouldn't assume that it's difficult for city residents to work together and improve their neighborhoods.
"I've had literally hundreds of elections in neighborhoods and nothing like this before," Miller said. "Instead of having an orderly transition of power, they're dealing with chaos."
Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395