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 road assessment policy is to assess property owners along a project route (gravel to paved or for reconstruction) 50% of the project cost with the remaining 50% paid by the city. The Sunnyfield Road reconstruction planned this year has only one property owner along the route, the Westonka School District. Mayor Whalen, at the council’s work session last night, thought they should get a break. She suggested only assessing them 20%.
Of course it couldn’t possibly be because members of the school board and Westonka School’s Superintendent were instrumental in her reelection (view story here). Maybe it’s because Whalen thinks Minnetrista residential property owners should be assessed more than a school district with a budget almost ten times that of the city and a much larger tax base over which to spread the cost? Or perhaps she doesn’t realize that school bus traffic and student/parent traffic are largely responsible for the road’s condition and much of that traffic comes from outside Minnetrista.
Yes, there have been exceptions to the city’s assessment rate on a few occasions in areas with low density but the majority of Minnetrista’s road projects are assessed at 50%. That is policy.
Both council members Reffkin and MacGregor responded to Whalen’s suggestion to lower the rate for the school with their opinion that the 50% policy should stand. Whalen kept pressing for her school district friends as council members Mortenson and Tschumperlin remained silent, ostensibly gauging the political wind direction. MacGregor finally proposed 40% in the spirit of compromise and Reffkin supported that although somewhat reluctantly.
Mortenson and Tschumperlin saw the compromise as palatable and indicated they could “probably” support it but Whalen kept pushing for her friends. She then said “What about 35%? Would any of you support 35%?” Ultimately Whalen’s valiant effort went unrewarded and the 40% rate prevailed for the school.
For those that haven’t followed Minnetrista’s political machine chicanery over the years this might come as a surprise but for those who have it will sound, disturbingly, familiar. Remember (here) in March 2018 when a Minnetrista council member announced she was moving and we discovered that two months prior to her announcement a replacement had already been chosen by the Our Minnetrista political committee?
They are at it again only this time it’s a bit more worrisome as the scheme highlights a pattern to shut out resident involvement in our local government.
On October 26, 2020, a full seven days prior to the Minnetrista election being decided, an application was filed by Minnetrista resident Hal Goldstein with the city to replace either Cathleen Reffkin on the city’s Parks Commission OR to replace Damian Young on the city’s Planning Commission. This application was filed a full week BEFORE the election. No notice of any commission vacancies had been made as of October 26 because there weren’t any vacancies as of October 26. Hmm..
Both Cathleen Reffkin, on the Parks Commission, and Damian Young, on the Planning Commission, were candidates in the election for city council. It was clear one of them would be elected and would vacate their commission appointment but the Minnetrista political machine was not going to take any chances that someone, not of their choosing, would apply for either one of the vacancies that could occur.
In our council work session packet for Monday night, December 7, 2020 at 5:30 pm, council members (or at least this council member) learned of the intention to not only interview Mr. Goldstein for this appointment but to appoint him officially at the council meeting following at 7pm. There have been no public notices made about any Minnetrista commission vacancies. I believe Minnetrista deserves to have these vacancies noticed publicly so anyone can apply for them to serve in their community.
As someone that does my homework on anything to do with council decisions I decided to look into Mr. Goldstein’s online presence to get a sense of who he is. I believe in researching candidates for public posts. His application is available to readers in the above work session packet link. Below are public posts made by Mr. Goldstein that anyone can see online:
If there is any question about what political party is in control of Minnetrista there shouldn’t be. Readers will no doubt hear cries of “hyper partisan conspiracy theories” from those involved because they don’t like it when they are exposed. Just remember, they’ve done it before, they are doing it now, and if you ignore it they will do it again.
Here is the information to attend the work session and council meeting Monday night:
Work Session meeting at 5:30pm, call +1 (872) 240-3412 and enter meeting Access Code 903-087-973 #, or join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone by accessing the following: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/903087973
City Council meeting, at 7:00 pm, call +1 (872) 240-3212 and enter meeting Access Code 691-118-757 #, or join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone by accessing the following: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/691118757
History is destined to repeat itself if we ignore it and it’s my hope Minnetrista is more aware now of our city’s political history. But I also know from door knocking that a good many residents have never paid much attention to our local government, so for those voters here is some history.
Minnetrista’s last contested mayoral election was in 2014 when council member Mark Vanderlinde ran against previous council member Lisa Whalen. Despite Whalen’s illegal political committee Our Minnetrista outspending Vanderlinde by 300% it appeared Vanderlinde, a well respected and well liked candidate, was going to win the election.
Knowing a fair fight wasn’t going to produce the desired outcome for Whalen, the Our Minnetrista political committee, which concealed their involvement in the election and didn’t report a single contribution, decided to drop a postcard full of false allegations against Vanderlinde just days before the election so he wouldn’t have time to respond to it. The postcard hit-piece is below and the bill for it was invoiced to the Westonka School District and paid by Whalen’s campaign.
Lisa Whalen, according to her latest 2020 disclosure report has raised over $15,000 and spent most of it on direct mail. Her campaign has already begun to post false allegations about illegal contributions by my campaign that never happened, has attempted to tie me to controversial actions I was never a part of and implying that the proven campaign violation charges for which she was sanctioned by the court were just my conspiracy theories. They know all they have to do is repeat things a few times and people will start believing even the most egregious lies.
Here’s a fun game for Minnetrista voters to play. Below is the donor list from Lisa Whalen’s pre-general mayoral campaign report totaling over $15,000. See if you can match up the highlighted individuals from Whalen’s trial exhibit, which shows those involved in setting up the illegal “Our Minnetrista” financial scheme, to her donor list. You’ll get bonus points for identifying other school board members, council members (or their spouses), and planning commission members (or spouses). Comment your results below and the winner with the most dots will be announced November 3.
I don’t watch much TV so I had no idea who Leslie Knope was when I saw this post on mayoral candidate Lisa Whalen’s Facebook page this morning. So a quick search turned up this Wikipedia page. Evidently she’s a fictional character on the NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation.
Some exerpts from the Wikipedia page show the personality type of the character:
Personality – Leslie Knope
Leslie Knope is extremely cheerful, ambitious, hard-working and optimistic.
Although somewhat naive, she is intelligent, well-read, and has good intentions, but is not always successful in executing her goals.
She has a crush on former Vice President Joe Biden, and harbors an irrational hatred of public libraries, salads, and the wealthy neighboring town of Eagleton—which Leslie found out, to her sheer horror, was actually her birthplace.
Leslie views herself as a budding political star in the style of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi..
Although she is shown to be running for the city council as an independent, she joins the Democratic Party at some point, as she is approached by “Janet from the DNC” about a potential gubernatorial bid in the final season.
Yes, I’m afraid we have a “real life” Leslie Knope in our midst.
John Adams: “”Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Last I checked it’s illegal for a school district to use taxpayer funded school resources to influence elections. That is exactly what has occurred. As I was door knocking on Sunday a resident disclosed she had received an email regarding the Minnetrista mayoral election from Westonka Public Schools discrediting my campaign. Below is the email Mr. Kevin Borg, Superintendent of Westonka Public Schools, sent on September 22, 2020 to “Key Communicators” in the Westonka community. The many false statements contained therein are highlighted and numbered with facts below.
Fact #1: Mr. Borg makes the claim the Shannon Bruce for Mayor committee stated the invoice in question was “sent to the district.” She never made a claim it was “sent” to the district, only that it was “invoiced” to the school’s account. In fact it never was sent to the school for payment. The printer created the Westonka School District invoice, showing campaign expenses on it for Lisa Whalen’s mayoral campaign but never sent it to the school district. Instead, the printer’s sales person, who incidentally was an active member of her campaign committee (according to subpoenaed emails) sent the invoice to the Treasurer of the YesWestonka political committee who arranged for it to be paid by Whalen’s campaign committee manager, David Kolb (ex-Minnetrista police chief). Emails subpoenaed from Whalen’s campaign finance violations trial support the facts above.
Fact #2:The statement “The Westonka School district received an invoice from Tandem Printing” isFALSE. See Fact #1. The school never received an invoice because payment on that invoice occurred outside of the school district with Whalen’s campaign committee (Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista411) paying it directly so it wouldn’t be discovered.
Fact #3: The contact person on the invoice, Bill Latour, was the Treasurer of the YesWestonka political committee which was tasked to promote the Westonka School District’s $22M bond referendum. He was not a school employee but was intimately involved in school district finances and worked closely with Mr. Borg. He was the person that placed the order with the printer instructing them to use the school’s account, but intending to pay for it with the Whalen campaign funds. Presumably this was done to evade paying sales tax and/or take advantage of the school’s discount or postage rates.
Fact #4: Mr. Borg’s claim “We contacted Tandem Printing to explain that the invoice was sent to Westonka Schools in error and would not be paid” is FALSE. See Fact #1 and Fact #3. The invoice was never sent to Westonka Schools. Subpoenaed emails show the printer’s sales person gave it to YesWestonka and it was subsequently paid by Whalen’s campaign committee (Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista411). Why would Mr. Borg claim to have contacted the printer in 2014 when the school district was unaware of the invoice until it was discovered in 2019 during the discovery phase of the lawsuit against Lisa Whalen and her campaign committee?
Fact #5: Mr. Borg claims his demand letter to the Shannon Bruce for Mayor Committee was prompted by a Youtube video released in August 2020. Mr. Borg was first made aware of the invoice in question in February of 2019. He was also aware of several social media posts that same year regarding the invoice subsequent to that date, all of which stated the same facts contained in the August video. After knowing about the invoice and ignoring it for over a year and a half he decided, two days before voting began for the Minnetrista mayoral election on September 16, 2020, to suddenly make claims of false statements by the Shannon Bruce for Mayor committee.
Fact #6: Mr. Borg claims his communication with Shannon Bruce was “private” when he had, in fact, copied the Westonka School Board on his email and one of them had subsequently provided it to Lisa Whalen’s campaign committee who used it, in addition to some of their own misrepresentations, in a post on social media, using the Westonka School logo, in an attempt to discredit the Shannon Bruce for Mayor campaign.
Fact #7: Mr. Borg attached his demand letter to Ms. Bruce to his “Key Communicators” email claiming it “outlines the facts” but, in fact it contains known false statements he knew at the time were untrue. He neglected to attach any of the email exchanges between himself and Shannon Bruce whereby she requested a meeting to share her evidence with him that would prove the video and prior social media posts were entirely factual. Mr. Borg refused the meeting and has never, on any occasion, contacted Shannon Bruce regarding these matters prior to his September 16 letter making false allegations against her campaign.
Fact #8:Mr. Borg claims his communication, timed two days before voting began in the Minnetrista mayoral election, was not politically motivated. What other conclusion can be drawn when he chose to ignore the matter for over a year and a half and then, suddenly, decided two days before voting begins that it was now time to address it? Why then, in his email to “Key Communicators” does he ask them to share this “news with others as appropriate” if not to discredit the Shannon Bruce for Mayor campaign?
There is a political machine at work here that has controlled Minnetrista for years and it not only includes the Mayor and her past campaign committee “Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista 411”, the YesWestonka political committee, several school board members, current and former council members, but sadly it now appears our own Westonka School Superintendent. I am saddened by that and what that means to our community.
It is illegal for a taxpayer funded public school to intentionally influence an election but that is exactly what has occurred in Mr. Borg’s communication to Westonka Schools “Key Communicators.” He has attempted to discredit a mayoral candidate with known falsehoods and unsubstantiated allegations designed to influence the Minnetrista mayoral election. Minnetrista has an opportunity to stop this abuse of power in our community.
Minnetrista needs new leadership to restore public confidence in our city government. The negative attacks on my mayoral campaign are retaliation for winning this lawsuit against Lisa Whalen and her campaign committee last summer. She should have stepped down then when she was asked to. Now voters get to decide.
I will not be commenting on social media to the continued bombardment of lies Lisa Whalen’s campaign is fabricating against my mayoral campaign except to point people to this post:
I exposed the fact last year that Whalen’s campaign in 2014 had her campaign expenses invoiced to the Westonka school district. I have the invoice from 2014 that was sent to me in 2019 as I was investigating illegal campaign contributions to her campaign. A lawsuit was filed which I won.
Now, four years after the transaction and voting has begun for the mayoral election, Whalen’s campaign is claiming I’ve made false statements, along with the Superintendent of Westonka Schools who has chosen to refuse my request to meet with him to show the evidence.
This could all be cleared up if the printing company involved would produce a corrected invoice showing the transaction was corrected as Whalen’s campaign claims. I have asked for an electronic version of a corrected invoice to verify authenticity but it has not been provided. It doesn’t exist.
Subpoenaed emails during Whalen’s trial for participating in an illegal campaign financing scheme turned up an email showing the printer attached the invoice in question and sent it to the treasurer of YesWestonka (a political committee advocating for the $22M school bond referendum) and it was subsequently paid by Lisa Whalen’s campaign committee (Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista 411) on November 3, 2014. *Note: Many of the same individuals involved in YesWestonka were also active members of the Our Minnetrista political committee.
Minnetrista 411 was the same organization as Our Minnetrista with a different role in Whalen’s campaign. It was created to do the negative campaigning as the artwork shows below. The same leader of Our Minnetrista (David Kolb, the city’s ex-police chief) was the leader of Minnetrista 411 and his wife, court records show, was Minnetrista 411’s treasurer.
6. The artwork above is the piece associated with the Westonka School District invoice shown below.
I sent the following email to the Superintendent of Westonka Schools after he refused to meet with me:
I have been targeted by this group of people called “Our Minnetrista/Minnetrista 411” because I have exposed their illegal activities and they were all sanctioned in the lawsuit subsequently referred to as “Minnetristagate” by the Center of the American Experiment in their coverage of it. The three judge panel said in the final judgement that Lisa Whalen and her campaign committee had “corrupted the political process” in Minnetrista. She is at it again attempting to discredit the person that exposed her and her illegal activities for which she was fined.
Minnetrista voters will ultimately be the judge of allowing a corrupt political machine to control the millions of dollars that flow through our city each year or if they want accountability and integrity in our city government.
When hiring a schill to spread lies about your Mayoral opponent it’s probably best to find one with some intelligence and a good memory for keeping track of all those pesky details in the web of deceptions being spun.
Take, for instance, this paragraph posted on Facebook by Mayor Whalen’s hired gun yesterday:
The backstory: The Lisa Whalen mayoral campaign in 2014 had campaign materials invoiced to the Westonka School District in an effort, presumably, to avoid paying sales tax and take advantage of the school’s discount with the printer, or perhaps their postal rates. It was all handled under the table, quietly paid by her campaign and no one thought anyone would ever know. Until four years later when Whalen was brought up before a judge for an illegal campaign financing scheme.
The three judge panel in that case, which she lost, said she and her campaign committee had “corrupted the political process.” Now she’s at it again.
Who really paid for all those Lisa Whalen for Mayor signs? I don’t think I need to explain much here as a picture is worth a thousand words. Minnetrista deserves a local government and mayor that don’t conceal things or hide anything from the public.
This city is an amazing place with wonderful people and with your vote we can all begin to rebuild trust in our city government. Thank you for your vote of confidence!