Shannon Bruce announces bid for Mayor of Minnetrista

I announced my bid for Mayor of Minnetrista today. Please visit www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com to learn how you can get involved in Minnetrista’s future. It’s in your hands. Here is the official announcement below:

Council member Shannon Bruce announces candidacy for Minnetrista Mayor
Bruce pledges to bring a customer service culture back to city hall and end Minneapolis-style top-down governance

Minnetrista Council Member Shannon Bruce announced her candidacy for Mayor on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, citing a need to restore trust in city leadership and refocus city hall on serving local residents.

“Far too often I see decisions being made at city hall without considering long term rubber stampconsequences to residents. Unelected officials from Minneapolis/St. Paul want to tell us how to run our city, and Minnetrista needs a mayor that puts Minnetrista first and won’t rubber stamp their agendas. Under my leadership, I will work with the council to protect our community from decisions that will lead to heavier traffic, more crime in our neighborhoods, higher fees and property taxes” said Bruce.

“I will refocus city government on its core responsibilities: public safety, roads, infrastructure, and zoning. Unfortunately, as a council member I’ve seen taxpayer dollars wasted and special treatment given to vendors and outside interests. As mayor, I pledge to put an end to special vendor relationships and will require open bidding for all significant city contracts, regardless of whether state statutes demand it.

“Minnetrista is a growing community, so we need to have an open dialogue with residents about their needs and adopt an attitude of customer service at city hall. Whether it’s responding to a 911 call, paving roads, or helping a property owner navigate a variance, Minnetrista residents deserve to have an excellent experience every time.”

Bruce also cited election integrity as a reason for running for mayor. The current Minnetrista mayor, Lisa Whalen, was sanctioned earlier this year for violating campaign finance laws. A three-judge panel ruled in June that Whalen’s arrangement with the Our Minnetrista political committee had “corrupted the political process,” in Minnetrista’s elections.

Website: www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com
Email: sbruce@ShannonBruceForMayor.com
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Minnetrista’s Three Ring Circus – city/school/DFL

Exactly one year ago I wrote a post titled “Who is Our Minnetrista?” Little did I know what would be exposed over the course of the next 12 months. I only knew something dollar sign eyeswas amiss but had no idea of the corruption, deception, and stronghold this group of people holds on our community until I filed a civil suit last November and began the discovery process which culminated in a ruling that held they had “corrupted the political process” in both the 2014 and 2018 elections and their leaders and candidates were fined.

Here is what I know now. The corruption isn’t limited to our mayor and a couple of council members (who all still sit on the council, btw). There are school board members who have been actively supporting this group with financial contributions and helping them recruit public officials to maintain their school board bubblescurrent power structure and taxing authority. There are also political committees like “YesWestonka” comprised of virtually the same people as “Our Minnetrista” whose goal to pass a $22M school bond referendum was successful primarily because they held the election in May instead of the November general election knowing a low voter turnout would benefit the measure. Now they have another referendum up for a vote in November 2019, not a general election either. Hmm.

I’ve also learned that the DFL is involved in this group with the DFL Senate District Chair being a financial contributor to the rogue “Our Minnetrista” political committee as well as a contributor to the campaign of the spouse of Westonka school board member Heidi Marty in his bid for election to the MN House of Representatives (D-Todd Mikkelson). This is one close-knit, happy family.

Is it any wonder, then, when the Westonka School District was invoiced for the Minnetrista mayor’s campaign mailings (apparently to avoid paying sales tax like her opponent had to) that the Westonka school district said nothing?

This last year has exposed the fact that a small group of people with vested interests in controlling millions of dollars of public funds in our community are doing just that. They consist of DFL leadership, school board members, elected public officials, ex-city employees, and political committees backing their initiatives that somehow always end in tax increases.

 

 

 

Why they hid “Our Minnetrista”

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:Whalen Amended 2014 CFR

 

Mortenson Amended 2018 CFR

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.”

Center of the American Experiment reports: “Widespread Campaign Finance Violations in Suburb of Minnetrista”

Full story:  Written by Tom Steward, Center of the American Experiment, July 2, 2019

Campaign finance laws serve to regulate the amount of donations flowing to political candidates for office from groups and individuals. Media attention usually  focuses on the horse race for contributions between candidates for higher office.

But campaign finance limits also apply to candidates running for city council and mayor in local elections. Yet you’d never know it from numerous violations recently uncovered in the Twin Cities suburb of Minnetrista, where three of the five current city council members were found to have violated Minnesota’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.

A panel of Office of Administrative Law judges has ruled against the city’s mayor, two city councilors, a former city councilor and a shadowy political committee known as Our Minnetrista for campaign finance violations in either the 2014 and/or 2018 municipal elections. Their 21-page ruling includes this nugget:

Our Minnestrista’s failure to file campaign financial reports in 2018 was ill-advised, corrupted the political process, and created an unfair advantage for the candidates it supported for two elective offices. A $2,000 penalty is appropriate.

The Panel concludes that the candidates’ violation of the contribution limits was negligent and difficult to correct or counter.

The panel’s findings vindicate Minnetrista City Councilor Shannon Bruce, who first exposed the apparent violations and then vetted the verdict on her watchdog Minnetrista Governance  Blog.

Our Minnetrista” and its candidates accepted multiple contributions far exceeding statutory limits and then divided them up among their candidates, only reporting a fraction of the actual check amounts on each candidate’s disclosure reports. They accepted illegal corporate contributions and then reported them as coming from individuals. They had the Westonka School District invoiced for their campaign mailings*, and in the courtroom “I don’t know” was the most frequently heard phrase from Respondents that included Minnetrista Mayor Lisa Whalen, Councilmembers Pam Mortenson and John Tschumperlin, past Councilmember Patricia Thoele, and Our Minnetrista leaders David Kolb and Karen Danielson.

Erick Kaardal, Attorney for Complainant, Shannon Bruce, remarked in his opening statement “How candidates operate in the campaign environment with respect to law reflects on how our public officials act when they are in office. And so, this is a very important case regarding how our campaigns for public officials are going to be operated consistent with the law or in violation of the law.”

Moreover, Bruce believes the campaign and outcome of the election was not only undermined but likely determined by skirting the rules.

Campaigning is hard work and an unfair advantage is created when a rogue political committee does all the work instead of a candidate: organizing fundraisers, choosing vendors for printing/signs/mailings, writing content for literature, putting up a website, doing the bookkeeping and filing campaign disclosure reports, distributing flyers, door-knocking, etc… At some point it becomes the political committee and not the candidate that is being elected.

The 2014 Mayoral race was won by less than 200 votes. Without the unfair advantage of Our Minnetrista’s illegal activity it’s reasonable to conclude that Whalen’s opposition in that race, Mark Vanderlinde, would’ve won the mayoral election by a wide margin. It’s also likely, had there been a level field, the 2018 independent candidate, Elroy Balgaard, would’ve defeated one of the Our Minnetrista candidates.

The OAH panel levied the maximum total amount of fines allowed in this case–$5,000. But Bruce believes much more needs to be done to uncover and prevent more widespread violations of campaign violations in local elections statewide.

Private citizens don’t have the resources to litigate these violations. Corruption flourishes without enforcement. We need oversight and enforcement of campaign finance laws at the local level in MN.

“Our Minnetrista’s failure to file campaign financial reports…corrupted the political process, and created an unfair advantage for the candidates it supported.”

Below are statements quoted directly from the OAH final judgment issued last Friday, June 21 in the “Minnetristagate” trial [Emphasis added in BOLD]:

  1. “…Our Minnetrista is a committee under Minn. Stat. § 211A.01, subd. 4.
    Our Minnetrista violated Minn. Stat. § 211A.02 in 2018 by failing to file campaign financial reports despite spending more than $750 in support of candidates.”
  2. “Our Minnetrista did not file any campaign financial reports in its own name
    disclosing contributions it received or expenditures it made…”
  3. “Because Our Minnetrista failed to file financial reports disclosing
    contributions it received and expenditures it made, and due to the manner in which Danielson [Our Minnetrista Treasurer] reported the contributions and expenditures on the candidate’s reports, Our Minnetrista’s role in the candidates’ campaigns was concealed from the public.
  4. “The campaign financial reports for Mortenson, Thoele, and Whalen did not
    list any contributions from Our Minnetrista” [Neither did the 2018 candidate financial reports for Mortenson and Tschumperlin]
  5. Mortenson, Thoele and Whalen were also aware that the expenditures
    listed on their 2014 financial reports as having been made by them, were actually made by Our Minnetrista.”
  6. “Mortenson and Tschumperlin were also aware that they had not made the expenditures listed on their 2018 financial reports, but that these payments were actually made by Our Minnetrista.”
  7. “Danielson completed the campaign financial reports for Mortenson and
    Tschumperlin. Danielson marked the reports as “candidate” reports as opposed to
    “campaign committee” reports. Once completed, she sent the reports to the candidates to review and approve.”
  8. “Our Minnetrista received at least one donation of $750, six donations of
    $1,000, and one donation of $1,800 in 2014. Danielson allocated these contributions
    in equal amounts to Mortenson, Thoele, and Whalen.” [Statutory contribution limit is $600]
  9. Two donations to Our Minnetrista were drawn on corporate bank accounts,
    but these contributions were reported on the candidates’ campaign financial reports as having been made by individuals. These contributions were divided equally between the three candidates as well.” [Minnesota Statutes prohibit corporate contributions to campaigns for public office]
  10. “Complainant established that Respondents Mortenson, Thoele, and
    Whalen violated Minn. Stat. § 211A.12 by accepting contributions in excess of $600 from Our Minnetrista in 2014.”
  11. “Complainant established that Respondents Mortenson and Tschumperlin
    violated Minn. Stat. § 211A.12 by accepting contributions in excess of $600 from Our
    Minnetrista in 2018.”
  12. “Our Minnetrista’s failure to file campaign financial reports…corrupted the political process, and created an unfair advantage for the candidates it supported.”

Trial Testimony Exerpt:

Whalen testimony on checks

Minnetristagate judgment affirms violations by Mayor, Councilmembers and “Our Minnetrista” committee

Minnetrista certainly has had its share of controversy over the years but “Minnetristagate” surpasses them all. The political committee “Our Minnetrista” and their candidates violated multiple campaign finance laws in order to influence the 2014 and 2018 Minnetrista city council elections. The financial scheme concocted by the group bypassing Minnesota’s Fair Campaign Practices Act was concealed from the public and according to the final order by the Office of Administrative Hearing’s (OAH) three judge panel:

“…corrupted the political process, and created an unfair advantage for the candidates it supported…”

Our Minnetrista” and its candidates accepted multiple contributions far exceeding statutory limits and then divided them up among their candidates, only reporting a Minnetristagatefraction of the actual check amounts on each candidate’s disclosure reports. They accepted illegal corporate contributions and then reported them as coming from individuals. They had the Westonka School District invoiced for their campaign mailings*, and in the courtroom “I don’t know” was the most frequently heard phrase from Respondents that included Minnetrista Mayor Lisa Whalen, Councilmembers Pam Mortenson and John Tschumperlin, past Councilmember Patricia Thoele, and Our Minnetrista leaders David Kolb and Karen Danielson.

Erick Kaardal, Attorney for Complainant, Shannon Bruce, remarked in his opening statement “How candidates operate in the campaign environment with respect to law reflects on how our public officials act when they are in office. And so, this is a very important case regarding how our campaigns for public officials are going to be operated consistent with the law or in violation of the law.”

Respondents defended their scheme to the very end claiming to have researched its financial structure with the city clerk, Secretary of State’s office and the Campaign Finance Board. Interestingly they didn’t have a single witness from those offices willing to testify on their behalf, provided no evidence such contacts ever occurred and couldn’t remember most of the names of the persons with whom they had allegedly spoken.

A highlight from the two day trial came from Mayor Lisa Whalen who, after being shown two checks, each for $1,000 from the same individual (contribution limit is $600) displaying clear, easily recognizable signatures on each check, feigned she didn’t know who made the contribution because she couldn’t make out the signature. Here are the exhibits she was shown:

Continue reading “Minnetristagate judgment affirms violations by Mayor, Councilmembers and “Our Minnetrista” committee”

GreenStep Cities Red Flags

GREENSTEP CITIES RED FLAGS: Mayor Whalen invited a representative from the GreenStep Cities program to address the city council last August. Enticed by the lure of recognition and their seemingly benevolent mission, “Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals,” it gained legs with staff and was advocated again at the city council’s strategy meeting in February.

When the GreenStep representative was asked last August about where their funding came from they said it was primarily nonprofits, foundations, and grants. What they failed to disclose is they have two major funders, one of which is the Met Council. And we all know the Met Council’s allegiance to local government autonomy.
GreenStep Met CouncilRed flag number one: Not being transparent when asked a direct question about funding sources.

In conversations over the weekend I learned from one of our state legislators that the GreenStep Cities program is “Repackaged from what was formerly known as Agenda 21 (for the 21st Century) GreenStep appears to be an obfuscated friendlier name for the same thing.”

Those unfamiliar with the United Nations Agenda 21 need only know it didn’t receive a warm welcome in the United States, with states passing resolutions condemning it and one even passed legislation prohibiting government involvement in the program.

Red flag number two: Changing the organization name when it’s reputation is exposed as undermining federal, state, and local autonomy.

The GreenStep Steering Committee is comprised of representatives from several nonprofits that are all climate change evangelists working together with the University of Minnesota, League of MN Cities, and various state agencies.

GreenStep Steering CommitteeRed flag number three: Human caused climate change is a controversial topic and there is no diversity represented on the steering committee.

This is not a program that will benefit the Minnetrista electorate. In fact, the sample ordinances they provide to cities appear to be designed for more government control over building regulations and private property use.

No award from the League of MN Cities is worth this.

 

 

 

Discovery continues…

Turns out not only is the largest contributor to Minnetrista Mayor Lisa Whalen’s 2014 campaign currently in a top position at a government agency she represents the city on, chameleon-holding-magnifying-glass-trans-copy-200x300but he was chosen for that position, out of 50 candidates, just a few weeks after she took office in January 2015. Whalen’s 2014 financial disclosure report didn’t identify the donors’ employer but just listed “education.”

I have to ask why anyone would contribute $1,750 to a local election in a town the size of Minnetrista. (See story details in “Things in Wonderland are getting curiouser & curiouser” post). It is rare to see contributions over $500 in local races and practically unheard of for one in such a small city as Minnetrista.

Whalen and other current and former Minnetrista council members have been accused of falsifying information on their campaign finance reports in a complaint in front of the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings.

Related post: “Doctored campaign reports at city hall”