Senate Republicans filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against DFL Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, accusing him of using his influence to steer a $375,000 contract to a community organization “that financially benefited his friends and associates.”
Republicans say Champion violated Senate rules if accusations are true that he threatened to withhold state aid from the Minneapolis School District if it did not award a contract to Community Standards Initiative (CSI), an organization aimed at helping young minority residents.
“We believe there is enough evidence for the ethics committee to investigate the Minneapolis school board’s accusations of intimidation, and look into any personal financial gains Sen. Champion may have benefited from by forcing the school board into a contract with CSI,” said Senate Minority Leader Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
CSI is run by Al Flowers, a community activist. Most recently, Flowers hired Champion to serve as his attorney after a confrontation with Minneapolis police that led to his arrest.
A similar complaint was filed late in September against Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, who abruptly quit the Community Action of Minneapolis board in the wake of an audit sharply criticizing its members for spending on numerous trips, a celebrity cruise, spas, golf and other expenses.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday said they were reviewing the complaint and were not prepared to respond.
Champion and Hayden strongly denied the allegations in a Sept. 19 opinion piece in the Star Tribune.
“What we were involved with is an ongoing struggle to address the single most critical issue for the future of our community and state: closing the underlying opportunity gap that leaves a staggering number of black youths without a diploma and the skills they need,” Champion and Hayden said in the opinion piece.
The Senate Ethics Subcommittee has 30 days to respond to the complaint.