Approximately an hour after yesterday’s blog post was published regarding the school board’s improper resolution appointing school employees to its ballot board, the school sent a letter to election judges inviting them to serve on the absentee ballot board for the school board election.
The Westonka school board is planning to appoint people to their absentee ballot board at their school board meeting scheduled for Monday, October 4, 2021, 7pm, 5905 Sunnyfield Road, in the Performing Arts Center, Minnetrista, MN.
The school board packet shows they are appointing only “deputy clerks” (five of them!) to their absentee ballot board, which is in charge of accepting and rejecting all the district’s absentee ballots in the upcoming school board election, for which absentee voting has already begun. Their resolution shows they intend to appoint five deputy clerks and no election judges to their ballot board.
Minnesota Statutes (203B.121 – see below) require that school districts establish an absentee ballot board that “must consist of a sufficient number of election judges…” and the school district is either ignorant of Minnesota election law or has chosen to ignore it.
Chapter 203B.121 goes on to say that a ballot board “may” include deputy city clerks. That means a deputy city clerk, of which the city of Minnetrista has only one, not five, and her name is not on the list of persons to be appointed. There is simply no statutory provision for school districts to appoint school district employees, as the board is planning, to their absentee ballot board and arbitrarily call them “deputy clerks” to get around appointing election judges.
You won’t hear the incumbent school board candidates calling out this election law violation. Who wouldn’t want their school district friends in charge of the ballots?
If the Westonka school district wants the electorate to have confidence in the outcome of the school board election this is no way to go about it. If you care about fair elections and believe your school district should follow state election laws please attend the school board meeting Monday night and let your voice be heard.
203B.121 BALLOT BOARDS.
Subdivision 1.Establishment; applicable laws.
(a) The governing body of each county, municipality, and school district with responsibility to accept and reject absentee ballots must, by ordinance or resolution, establish a ballot board. The board must consist of a sufficient number of election judges trained in the handling of absentee ballots and appointed as provided in sections 204B.19 to 204B.22. The board may include deputy county auditors or deputy city clerks who have received training in the processing and counting of absentee ballots.
(b) Each jurisdiction must pay a reasonable compensation to each member of that jurisdiction’s ballot board for services rendered during an election.
(c) Except as otherwise provided by this section, all provisions of the Minnesota Election Law apply to a ballot board.
The only school district with a school actually located in Minnetrista is the Westonka school district which has three school board seats up for election in November 2021. If you’re in the Westonka district it is imperative you vote. Our community and students’ futures depend on it.
I attended the League of Women Voters school board candidate forum on September 17 and came away more convinced than ever that the Westonka school board needs new members, more connected to the community. You can watch the forum here. There are four challengers and three incumbents running:
Challengers: Katie Holt, Rachael Myers, Kathleen Olesinski and Gregory Snyder
Incumbents: Brian Carlson, Loren Davis and Gary Wollner
As is typical at LWV events many of the questions were designed for incumbents to answer, containing specifics about past board actions, plans, etc. that challengers weren’t privvy to. Regardless, the challengers stood up well and, frankly, any of them would be an improvement over the tax and spend, mask and vaccine mandate supporting, incumbents.
Early voting has started so get yourself over to the Westonka School District office now:
In-person absentee/early voting for the November election began Friday, Sept. 17 and continues through Monday, Nov. 1 at the school district offices, 5901 Sunnyfield Rd. E, Minnetrista. Absentee voting is being conducted during regular office hours Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. On the last day for absentee voting, Nov. 1, the office will be open until 5 p.m.
Beginning Tuesday, Oct. 26, through the end of the absentee period, voters will be able to cast their ballots by inserting them directly into a ballot counter, just as they would on Election Day.
The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 2, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. There are two combined polling places:
- Mount Olive Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 5218 Bartlett Blvd., Mound
- School district offices, Educational Service Center community room, 5901 Sunnyfield Rd. E., Minnetrista
To determine your polling location, use the Secretary of State pollfinder, http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.
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” is FALSE. 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.
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 was 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 current 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.