The inside story on Minnetrista local issues: This blog is to inform citizens and give them a perspective on matters of importance in Minnetrista, MN. Opinions posted here are my own and do not reflect official positions of any public body or official.
Minnetrista’s mayor surprised residents when she announced in July she would be running again. Most of us haven’t forgotten the judgment against her last summer for the illegal financial scheme she was involved in that birthed the term “Minnetrista-gate” and, in the judge’s words “corrupted the political process” in Minnetrista.
Calling the illegal financial scheme a “technical error” underscores the fact our current mayor doesn’t think she did anything wrong. She doesn’t agree with the three judges that do. Watch the video below to understand what really happened and why.
The illegal scheme concealed who her campaign donors wrote checks to as well as who paid for her campaign expenses. Her financial involvement with the illegal political committee “Our Minnetrista,” whose leaders were sanctioned as well, was kept secret, as was a donation to her campaign for over 10 times the legal limit from the committee (the reason for the illicit scheme). And on top of all that her campaign mailings were invoiced to the Westonka School District.
If she’ll blatantly lie and break the law campaigning, do you trust her to govern your city?
Wow. It just keeps getting more interesting. Just discovered the spouse of Minnetrista’s city engineer at the time, from WSB Engineering, works at the printing company that invoiced the Westonka School District for political campaign literature for Mayor Whalen. Also did some calculations from the newly filed disclosure reports and was shocked to see more than $12,000 was spent with this printer in that election. Were ALL those invoices billed to the school district? Just how much sales tax was evaded by those candidates? Why are these people still in office?!
Largest historical Minnetrista campaign donation ends with donor in top job – Just days after Mayor Whalen took office and was appointed as the Minnetrista council liaison to a government agency, her campaign donor, who had just made the largest campaign donation in Minnetrista history, was appointed to that agency’s top position which would soon have oversight of a proposed 80 acre development in Minnetrista.
The donation was discovered during the recent “Our Minnetrista” campaign finance violations case but what raised red flags, other than the fact the donation was three times the legal limit, was the donor failed to list his real employer and also completed the transaction using a PayPal account. Writing a check is the norm for large donations and checks are traceable. PayPal accounts can be used by anyone with a login and password to an account.
The land for this proposed development would need to be rezoned and a PUD approved by the council for it to begin. With “Our Minnetrista’s” candidates (Whalen, Mortenson & Thoele) elected to the council that path would be clear. The developer chosen for building the high-end homes had a previous relationship with the donor’s real employer evidenced on the developer’s website.
An interesting side note is Mayor Whalen had been the Minnetrista council liaison to the government agency for many years prior to her leaving the council in 2010 and was immediately reappointed upon taking office in January 2015.
So who is the mystery donor, government agency, developer and donor’s employer at the time of the donation? The donor and donation were listed in a trial exhibit and are public information as part of the recent OAH ruling (OAH#71-0325-35774):
The Westonka School District was invoiced for the Mayor’s campaign brochures as well as a hit piece on her opponent. But the cost of the brochures and hit piece wasn’t
disclosed by the Mayor or “Our Minnetrista,” the political committee backing her. A political committee named Minnetrista411 falsely reported the expenditure on its own disclosure report to the Campaign Finance Board. Yes, complex crimes are complicated but the invoice shown here is irrefutable proof that corruption in Minnetrista is not limited to city hall. It extends to the Westonka School District and who knows how much further.
In discussing this with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office I was asked if the Westonka school board was aware of this. My reply was, yes, but many of the school board members are also “Our Minnetrista” members and appear more eager to bury it than expose it. The contact person on the invoice was the Treasurer for the YesWestonka political committee responsible for pushing through the $22M Westonka Schools bond referendum. He is identified in subpoenaed “Our Minnetrista” emails as an active member involved in Our Minnetrista’s fundraising and campaign activities, specifically coordinating their printing.
The invoice and artwork associated with it was obtained during discovery in the Office of Administrative Hearings’ case involving campaign finance violations against Mayor Whalen, one former and two current Minnetrista city council members (OAH#71-0325-35774).
WHY THEY HID “OUR MINNETRISTA” – The June judgement handed down to the mayor and council members involved in the “Our Minnetrista” scandal ordered them to file accurate campaign finance reports and pay their fines by August 1. One need look no further to see why they hid the role of the political committee “Our Minnetrista” in their campaigns. They would’ve had to truthfully disclose this:
Keep in mind there were other, legitimate, candidates that spent money of their own in these elections. The mayoral candidate opposing Whalen in 2014 lost by less than 200 votes. These violations affected the outcome of these elections in both 2014 and 2018. The three judge panel called it corruption citing their actions “corrupted the political process” and gave the Our Minnetrista candidates “an unfair advantage.” Our mayor calls it an “administrative error.”
Destruction of evidence during an ongoing civil suit is a criminal offense last I heard. On the very day screen shots from www.ourminnetrista.com were taken showing donations going into an “Our Minnetrista” account (something they had been very careful to obscure by reporting all donations as going directly to their candidates) the entire Our Minnetrista website was deleted. The screenshots were shared with them as part of the discovery process of the civil suit and within hours of that notification the entire website was deleted, all their Facebook content was deleted and no online evidence remained of their activity. Sound like an innocent “error?”
You really can’t make this stuff up. There is actually a letter to the editor of The Laker Pioneer this morning praising their slanted coverage of the “Our Minnetrista” scandal from an “Our Minnetrista” member, Wendy Applegate, who was identified as such in subpoenaed emails discussing their illegal financial scheme. See page 5 of the Laker Pioneer July 27 edition. The author also wrote a letter to the Laker editor back on September 10, 2014 announcing the formation of Our Minnetrista and a fundraiser for them.
Wake up Minnetrista.
The above email was trial exhibit #61 and is public information in case number OAH 71-0325-35774.
Another letter to the Laker editor titled “Kudos to Local Paper for Minnetrista Coverage” was in last week’s paper from Deanna Montang who is notably an “Our Minnetrista” member as well and appears as a recipient in the trial exhibit email above.
Also note that at the July 15 Minnetrista council meeting several people listed in this trial exhibit were the individuals speaking in support of the mayor and two council members fined for campaign finance violations. Of course they support the “Our Minnetrista” public officials. They are “Our Minnetrista” leaders.
MORE MINNETRISTA-GATE DISCOVERY – Just when you think it can’t get any worse… The following testimony from the recent campaign violations trial shows us that long before Minnetrista Councilor Patricia Thoele publicly resigned her council seat the end of March 2018, the “Our Minnetrista” political committee members (which included Mayor Whalen and Councilors Mortenson & Thoele) were busy recruiting Thoele’s replacement the previous January. According to trial testimony they invited John Tschumperlin to meet with them in January, keeping Thoele’s pending resignation a secret until the end of March, and then voted Tschumperlin in as her replacement.
All this while inviting residents to interview for the vacancy they had already rigged.
It is a violation of Minnesota’s public meeting law for a quorum (3 or more) council members to discuss city business outside of noticed public meetings.
*There is no relation between Judge Mortenson & Council Member Pam Mortenson
The Laker Pioneer has this down almost as well as their artistry in burying stories that are damaging to the public officials they protect. Their July 20 article covering Minnetrista’s July 15 council meeting is blatantly misleading when it says the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) found “no criminal activity took place” on the part of the Minnetrista-gate Respondents. Someone needs to tell the Laker that the OAH is a civil court and can’t rule or convict anyone criminally. The evidence of criminal activity found during the discovery phase of the civil trial was not even heard by the OAH. It has, however, been submitted to the county Sheriff’s office and county attorney. That is a fact, not a rumor as the Laker asserts.
The Laker, in their predictable “unbiased” fashion, quoted only supporters of the mayor and council member Respondents. Not one of the many people that spoke demanding their resignations was quoted in the story.
It then goes on to say the mayor “promised that there would be no debate,” ostensibly to seem fair since one of the sitting council members was the Complainant in the case, but then [unilaterally] went on to give “corrections to some of what was said” and made an “attempt to put to rest certain rumors…” And people wonder why I blog.
A gentleman was quoted in the story saying we shouldn’t continue “to beat a 5-year-old dead horse.” I’m sure the reporter knows these violations were from the 2018 election which wasn’t even a year ago. Violations from 2014 were litigated as well because the role of Our Minnetrista was concealed and prevented their discovery back then.
“We take ownership of this error,” the mayor is quoted as saying and elsewhere the violations are referred to as an “administrative error.” Translation: “We are unapologetic and do not admit to any wrongdoing whatsoever and never will.” The OAH doesn’t impose a $5,000 fine because of an “error”. The council candidate which the “Our Minnetrista” member, Jane Norling, spoke of that evening (which the story conveniently leaves out) who was fined for an inadvertent contribution limit “error” last year was only fined $250, hardly comparable to the seriousness of these violations the judges said gave “an unfair advantage” to Mayor Whalen and Councilors Mortenson and Tschumperlin. They cheated to win and see nothing wrong with it.
Did anyone notice the headline typeface on this slanted piece was twice the size of the ones used on the buried stories about the original allegations and the judgments handed down in June? Intentional? I’m sure it was just an “administrative error.”
If there is a remnant of professional journalism left in America it certainly won’t be found at the Laker-Pioneer.
If there was any doubt about the stronghold the political committee “Our Minnetrista” has over our city it was displayed last night at our city council meeting, the first since the campaign finance judgments were handed down against the mayor and two council members. In a well orchestrated turnout the political machine sent speakers to the podium, one by one, each with scripted remarks pledging allegiance to the misunderstood public officials that had been party to the illegal activities of “Our Minnetrista” accepting more than 10 times the legal contribution limits.
Several of the “Our Minnetrista” contributors that wrote checks over statutory limits spoke last night echoing the mayor’s cry that it was all just an “administrative error.” Readers may remember a similar cry of there being “no basis” for any of the complaints when they were filed after the election.
“Our Minnetrista” Treasurer Karen Danielson turned on the waterworks on cue claiming innocence (or was it ignorance, I don’t remember) before the crowd and, again, made unsubstantiated claims of her attempts to get approval for implementing the financial scheme which involved concealing the source of candidate contributions as well as their amounts. In her sworn declaration she actually admitted no one told her the scheme was legal. And the Oscar goes to…
There were several individuals who spoke asking for the violators’ resignations. One noted that a $5,000 fine didn’t indicate an “administrative error” but a very serious breach of campaign finance law. That didn’t sit well with the “Our Minnetrista” crowd and one of them actually suggested that I should be the one to resign. Yes, the person exposing corruption should be the one to resign. You can’t make this stuff up.
To conclude, the mayor, who had previously ruled there would be no council debate (Translation: I would not be allowed to speak) gave herself the opportunity to defend herself and the two others before abruptly ending the Persons To Be Heard session.