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.
I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about my Minnetrista mayoral race from those surprised by the outcome so decided to post an explanation:
Going into September it seemed, based on feedback from social media and door knocking, that winning the mayoral race was not only possible but highly probable. Then, two days before voting began, the Superintendent of Westonka Schools, Kevin Borg, dropped a demand letter to me citing alleged false statements related to Lisa Whalen’s campaign having invoiced the Westonka School District for her campaign expenses in her last contested election. He had been aware of the invoice and the subsequent widely shared social media posts regarding it for over a year and a half and had never said anything about it.
Several Westonka school board members are and have been involved in Whalen’s campaign committees including the “Our Minnetrista” political committee that was sanctioned last year for violating campaign finance laws. Mr. Borg, while professing he had sent the demand letter to me “privately” admitted later he had shared it with school board members that supported Whalen’s campaign.
With only two days before voting would begin, this underhanded, politically motivated attack on my credibility went viral on Facebook and Nextdoor social media groups almost immediately. The school’s logo was used to lend credibility to the allegations online and Whalen published Borg’s demand letter on her campaign page. There was not a single false statement made in any of my campaign’s information on the topic and the Whalen campaign and her school board supporters knew that. The Westonka School District and Mr. Borg knew it as well and had no intention of following thru with the implied threat of legal action, should I refuse to retract everything, because they knew everything I had said was factual.
To make absolutely sure the allegations spread throughout Minnetrista Mr. Borg sent an email to all of Westonka School’s “Key Communicators” a few days later asking them to spread the allegations against my mayoral campaign. Confident I would never see his email message, it openly accused my campaign of spreading lies and claimed the evidence showing the illegal invoice from Whalen’s campaign was just a mistake. We all know it wasn’t a mistake and subpoenaed emails from Whalen’s trial last year prove it. And they know it.
Whalen spent over $15,000 to defeat my campaign but she knew she couldn’t do it honestly, so she did exactly as she had in her last contested election where her illegal “Our Minnetrista” political committee dropped a hit-piece against her opponent, just days before the election, spreading false information about him. You can read about that here. Interestingly, it was that hit-piece mailing that was invoiced to the school district. With just a few days till the election there wasn’t enough time for her opponent to address the lies and he lost by a mere 190 votes. History has indeed repeated itself.
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.
I have been a strong voice on the city council trying to bring attention to the dismal state of high speed internet access in Minnetrista. I asked for it to be added as a goal in the city’s strategic plan many years ago but absolutely nothing of any substance has been done.
In examining Mediacom’s non-exclusive contract with the city it was brought to my attention that Mediacom had agreed to extend it’s system by January 2019 to the Phase 2 map below:
Please don’t call city hall if you live in the Phase 2 circle, like I do, and don’t have service. Mediacom has not extended its system where contractually obligated and the city needs to hold them accountable with fines until they do. Those fines should have started in January 2019. If they had we likely would have service to these areas by now.
A special shout out to Mr. Reinholdz, a resident who spoke at our council meeting “Persons to be heard” session last Monday night. He had some great insights into this issue.
There are two candidates for mayor in Minnetrista in the general election, the incumbent and myself. If you’re like most people you probably don’t pay much attention to local government elections. I certainly didn’t until I was asked to run for the city council. What I’ve seen and experienced there is why I had to run. We need to restore trust in our leadership and transparency in our city government. Above is my video message to Minnetrista.
I have been a voice putting residents first:
Stopping Met Council restrictions from becoming city policy in our Comprehensive Plan
Adding the goal of reliable high-speed Internet to our strategic plan for all of Minnetrista
Pushing to end an unnecessary emergency order and for citizens to be able to speak before the council
Pressuring the city to appoint a party-balanced absentee ballot board – for the first time, bringing integrity to our elections
Exposing countless conflicts of interest in our city government.
I have never voted for an annual tax levy that would result in an increase in your city property taxes. There is ample growth in our community to provide revenue for city services to our new residents.
I have been a vocal proponent for competitive bidding and have often been the sole dissenting vote on contracts because of it.
I believe in the rule of law and holding our elected representatives accountable. How someone runs their campaign is reflective of how they will lead. We need new leadership in Minnetrista. Please donate to the Shannon Bruce for Mayor Committee. Put Minnetrista back in your hands!
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.
Over the last few weeks I’ve met with several broadband professionals in both Minnetrista and other parts of the twin cities to discuss how we can make reliable high speed internet available to everyone in Minnetrista.
It starts with engaging the right people that understand this rapidly changing technology and the political landscape where it is deployed. I am meeting with and interviewing individuals to establish, once elected Mayor, a Minnetrista broadband working group that will help us navigate the technological, legal and logistical challenges ahead. I am more confident than ever this is not an insurmountable challenge if the right stakeholders are at the table.
I have been an advocate since I’ve been on the city council to establish an advisory body on high speed internet. I was the council member to first suggest putting high speed internet access for Minnetrista as a strategic goal several years ago. At our strategy meeting last spring I pushed to change our stated objective from a passive statement of merely acknowledging the goal to proactively getting creative about solving the issue. But one council member has no authority on their own.
I’ve worked in technology companies my entire career and also understand the political landscape in which we work. Putting solutions together requires bringing the right players to the table and I am meeting, not only with industry professionals but also with other elected officials in nearby cities and counties to do just that.
Minnetrista needs a champion on this issue with a determination to make it happen.
There are some very clear differences between the Minnetrista mayoral candidates. Transparency is a big one.
One of the Minnetrista candidate forum questions was “What does the word ‘transparency’ mean to you?” I didn’t participate in the forum for a variety of reasons which can be found here, but I’d like to answer that question.
Transparency, to me, means honesty, openness and a commitment to the public that nothing in our city policy making process will ever be hidden from them. It means decisions will never be made behind closed doors before matters are discussed with the council and open for public scrutiny. It means controversial issues will not be relegated to the very end of council agendas when the public has gone home or the council is too tired to engage. It means the title of agenda items will never obscure sensitive issues. And it means information will never be selectively distributed to avoid dealing with different perspectives.
There are three seats in Minnetrista up for election in November: two council seats and the mayor. The Minnetrista council is comprised of 5 people (mayor and four council members). In order for the council to act on a matter it requires a “quorum” of at least three members to agree. Each member has one vote, including the mayor. That’s important to understand because a mayor is helpless to implement policy or accomplish anything without the support of at least two other council members. Please check out council candidates Ann MacGregor and Cathleen Reffkin below:
It’s an election year and strange things happen in election years. Mayor Whalen has voted every year since she was elected to increase the city’s tax levy to the point of increasing your property taxes. Every. Single. Year. But this is an election year and even Whalen understands voters don’t like seeing their taxes go up year after year after year.
I predict this will be the first year Whalen votes in support of a tax levy that doesn’t increase your city property tax. But remember, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Rest assured that will hold true for the next four years.
Past city levy increases have far exceeded Minnetrista’s growth rate. Since elected I have voted against each and every one. The growth we are experiencing, and are told will continue, should generate more than enough revenue to support city services without increasing anyone’s city property taxes. The city also has several “special funds” not reflected in the general fund (where levied revenues and expenditures appear) with hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting idle. Some of these funds should be re-allocated to roads instead of using roads as an excuse to raise taxes every year.
Our council meeting Tuesday night will likely include a vote on the 2021 preliminary tax levy. Anyone willing to wager it will be the lowest since Whalen took office?