• 19Jul

    Here is my statement to the Ethical Practices Board:

    Fraud: “deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.

    I received what I viewed as a credible tip indicating that Bari Amadio was attempting to change the conclusions of the Public Arts Masterplan to benefit herself and her organization. Through investigation on behalf of those I serve, I acquired evidence that showed, despite statements to the City otherwise, the Greater Rochester Arts & Cultural Trust was not committed to transparency, was not working with the collaborative arts community, and had no intention of creating an independent plan.

    When I successfully received the Public Arts Masterplan through a valid data practices act request; I received an additional document that showed both Brad Jones and Bari Amadio had written a summary document refuting a core finding of the Public Arts Masterplan as written by the consultant. Particularly concerning was that they wrote this before the groups that they promised to work with had even seen the draft document. The effect of the change they proposed would likely result in the directing of substantial public funds to their own organization.

    I believe that Bari Amadio and the Greater Minnesota Arts & Cultural Trust committed fraud against the people of Rochester. I do not like Bari Amadio and I certainly do not trust Bari Amadio. If any of these items represent a violation of our code of Ethics, I am guilty. Fortunately for me these beliefs and my willingness to state them have nothing to do with our adopted Code of Ethics.

    What I am here to do is respond specifically to how there are no violations of Chapter 13: Code of Ethics as adopted by the City of Rochester.

    While I greatly appreciate that the investigator Ms. Soldo rightfully dismissed most of the complaint, I am here to correct her errors and ensure that this is thrown out in its entirety. I am incredibly disappointed in both the technical errors committed Ms. Soldo and her unwillingness to even follow up on the statements I made regarding her incorrect assumptions with the City Attorney. You now have a separate sheet which I am not making public stating what those errors are. You can see that almost every section of the report contains an error. You can of course also check with the City Attorney on the factual basis behind these. Further I believe it was inappropriate for Ms. Soldo to suggest modifying the Code of Ethics to include areas which have nothing to do with ethics, it was not her job to change our ordinance to her liking.

    There are two significant allegations by Ms. Amadio and the GRACT. Let’s start with the easiest.

    Bari Amadio alleges that I committed liable. For numerous reasons I did not commit liable, but even more important, liable is not covered by our code of ethics and as such there is no violation of our code of ethics. Bari likely filed the complaint here because she knows she would have no chance in a civil court where this complaint belongs.

    This should be dismissed.

    Secondly, Bari Amadio alleges that I violated our conflict of interest policy 13.04 Subd. 2(B) which reads: [A conflict of interest shall include] Use of the person’s public position to secure special privileges or exemptions for the person or for others. For numerous reasons I did not violate this clause. To keep it simple, I did not secure anything, even Bari agrees with this. As such there can be no violation of this section. There is no violation for asking for data regardless if it is public or private and not securing it. Similarly, there would be no violation for asking and receiving data voluntarily. Bari might not like it; but the decision is crystal clear, I did not secure anything therefore there can be no violation here.

    Bari Amadio also insinuated that I intimidated her right before saying she wasn’t intimidated. I concur with the report which points out the silliness of this situation.

    This should also be dismissed.

    And with that all the substantive claims raised by Bari Amadio are gone.

    All that is left is fluff, where there is no specific language there is nothing in the Code of Ethics to address. What some are trying to do is use a vague descriptive phrase to imply misconduct, and even that is achieved by several errors as confirmed by the city attorney.

    Let’s review the general language in the in the Code of Ethics:

    Responsibilities of Public Office.  Public officials hold office on behalf of the public.  They are bound to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Minnesota.  Public officials must carry out impartially the laws of the nation, state, and city in fostering respect for all government.  They are bound in their official acts to the highest standards of morality and to discharge faithfully the duties of their office.  Public officials shall be dedicated to fulfilling their responsibilities of office.  They shall be dedicated to the public purpose and all programs developed by them shall be in the community interest.  Public officials shall not exceed their authority or breach the law or ask others to do so.  They shall work in full cooperation with other public officials and employees unless prohibited from doing so by law.

    This is incredibly vague. The Code of Ethics then goes into detail about what is and is not a violation. When no violation could be found, this generic language was then used to try to create a violation.

    These are the statements in their entirety between Bari Amadio and I:

    From Bari:

    “And Michael, the only thing I’m sitting on is my chair. I’m not sure where you’re hearing that nonsense but it’s not surprising. Next time, since you work for me in Ward 2, please feel free to contact me directly. I’m always available to answer questions. “

    From Me:

    “I would like to see the report in its current form, by the end of the week. The public owns it and has a right to see it… And oh by the way Bari, that request is on behalf of several artists in Ward 2, who have expressed a great mistrust in you. Elections have consequences and you get my oversight of the taxpayers dollars…”

    From Me:

    “I asked for and did not receive the draft of the public arts master plan last week. This is now my 3rd written request for that document. Please send it to the council this week.”

    From Bari:

    “Michael-

    I understand from a legal perspective that you have been informed by the city’s legal counsel that you are not entitled to this information at this time. So I need to understand, why are you still asking for this?”

    From Me:

    “Because the taxpayers paid 50% of the cost. Regardless of staff not writing legal protections into a contract, the public should see this plan. I am currently concluding that the official position of the Trust is that you will not provide the document because you are not legally obligated to. I disagree, but want to make sure my understanding is factually correct.”

    From Bari:

    “Your conclusions are self-serving. The Trust operates independently as a private organization and it will determine the process by which the report is distributed to the public. You do not.

    The report will be revealed to the public when we are prepared to do so, which is actually next month, unless you have a legal opinion from the city attorney that states otherwise. I know for a fact that you do not as the city attorney has specifically stated that the disclosure of the report is not within your rights as a councilman. I consider this matter closed. If you have an issue, please take it up with the city attorney or my board chair.”

    From Me (to Brad Jones, cc: Bari):

    “Brad, I am requesting the immediate release of this publicly funded document as board chairman will you honor this request? I would encourage you to operate with transparency as the funding was pushed for by 2 elected officials who were found guilty of violating Rochester’s code of ethics. I look forward to a written response.”

    This is what is apparently so scandalous that it justified thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of expense. These are the harmless communications that simultaneously are said to be a violation of the code of ethics and yet not even covered in the code of ethics.

    Note that the very first time that Bari told me in writing that she would not provide the report, it was the last time I asked. I had what I needed, she was refusing to let the public see the report they paid for. Further she suggested that that I take it up with her board chair. I did, but never received a response. She also stated that the report would be revealed next month unless I had a legal opinion from the city attorney that stated it was public data.

    So, I got one… Both the legal decision stating this was public data, and then subsequently the data. I also got evidence of how she was attempting to manipulate the process and change the outcome in secrecy.

    I never expected that Bari Amadio or GRACT would willingly provide documentation that would show their attempt to defraud the public and redirect public funds to their organization. But, I knew I could get the document by other means as it was public information. By asking the question and getting a written response to the request from Bari Amadio, I created a record whereby I could demonstrate not only the fraudulent activity that was the Public Arts Masterplan; but also, the lengths she would go to hide the evidence.

    You may like my style, you may hate my style, but there is not a single line in the code of ethics that has been violated. If you think I did something wrong, then propose a change to the ordinance, don’t try to make up language to justify a violation.

    Lastly if you think that sending emails because of a suspicion of fraud on my part is a violation of our Code of Ethics, I am going to have to disclose many other violations. First, there is a young woman that is losing her home. She has a very limited fixed income and special needs. I am actively working with private developers and non-profits to find her safe housing that she can afford. Monday, I worked late into the night after a council meeting to better understand her needs. This is unquestionably exceeding the authority of a councilmember, in fact far more so than anything mentioned in Bari’s complaint. Since there are no standards in the code of ethics to evaluate “exceeding their authority” or “shall work in full cooperation with other officials” A decision that my requests for information violated the code of ethics in the absence of any language or standards would likely result in the need for myself and other city officials to self-report hundreds of violations like the one I just disclosed.

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  • 24May

    Here is the latest information on how I and the city plan to review proposals for the reuse of the armory. I would give a tip of the hat to Nick Campion who started us out on the right foot. He made some good suggestions and I switched how I plan to review these the proposals. In addition Annalissa Johnson & Mark Bilderback (thus a majority of the council) also agreed.

     photo Position on Rochester Armory Proposals_zps5n0olvok.jpg

    The city council will review the 5 proposals at a committee of the whole meeting on June 5th. Due to the heightened interest in the community we will be moving the meeting to a larger venue. For now the 5 proposals are private, but as I receive permission I intend to share those 5 proposals here. I will add links as I get public data.

    Contrary to the case with other decisions, in this case the Council may make their decision by whatever criteria they so choose. We are also free to talk about our thoughts and opinions at any time. In short, we are not in a “Quasi-Judicial” role.

    I would say 3-4 of the proposals were very good. Previously I supported the ACI proposal and again they made a strong proposal.

    I am also interested in your input, please send me questions you think we should ask at the COW meeting. I am going to publish a list here so no one gets to surprised. I have a strong preference in maintaining public ownership of both the Armory and the parking lots. I could see eventually selling the lots, but only after planning is firmed up in the area.

    Some questions I may ask:

    1. Under your proposal would the Armory remain publicly owned? (this is disclosed)
    2. Does your proposal require the inclusion of the parking lots?
    3. If the parking lots are a currently required; would you still pursue the project if those lots remain publicly owned?
    4. If your proposal calls for private ownership of the Armory, would you consider proceeding with a long term lease instead?
    5. If a long term lease would work, what length and terms would you consider?
    6. What do you see as the typical usage and demographics in a given week?
    7. How will your project benefit minority / low income / immigrant communities?
    8. Your question here

     

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  • 20Mar

    I ran for office and was elected by the people of Rochester on a platform of “#integrity” in city governance. Chief among by belief in leadership with integrity is a focus on stewardship of taxpayer dollars and transparency in government.

    The City of Rochester funded the Public Art Master Plan with taxpayer dollars after a rushed discussion where the city, collaborative artists, and taxpayers were provided assurances that the process would be executed with transparency and collaboration in mind.

    The community later went through a period of almost a year where no updates were provided and no engagement with arts or civic leaders outside of the GRACT took place. As a steward of public dollars and trust; I embarked on a venture to obtain and distribute the latest draft of the Public Arts Master Plan.

    I have now successfully acquired this document and it has been ruled public data by the City Attorney and the State of Minnesota Commissioner of Administration Information and Policy Analysis Division. A complete copy of this document can be found here. I encourage all interested parties to review this document and provide feedback prior to city council discussion on the matter.

    I strongly believe that documents produced with public funding by groups that are supported with public tax dollars or in kind donations should always be public data. I will continue to shine light on organizations or individuals who seek to take taxpayer subsidies.

     

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  • 17Nov

    Some thoughts:

    • The Chateau Theater will be preserved for generations to come.
    • Rochester is lucky to have Steve Schmidt. He gets this.
    • We just don’t have this kind of money available. We will need to partner with private developments.
    • The future of arts is strong in Rochester with Chateau, Library, RACC, Art Center, Civic Theater, private organizations, etc.
    • My stretch goal still remains a world class performing arts center on the River downtown.
    • The RCVB should not get public dollars or parkland for a new hockey stadium. If Taylor Arena is truly out of date, we tear it down and enjoy more green space.

    Here are the documents staff sent out:

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  • 14Sep

    Here is some good news for fellow supporters of the Arts in Rochester. The City Administrator has come out in support of the ACI proposal! I remain strongly supportive of the ACI proposal from both an arts & inclusivity perspective.

    Here is the memo.

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Brede, Ardell
    Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2016 12:18 PM
    To: Kvenvold, Steve <skvenvold@rochestermn.gov>
    Subject: RE: Armory Reuse Matters

    Steve; as you know even before you sent the attached email to Council I had expressed some thoughts.
    While I agree getting an appraisal of the Armory was wise and appropriate I have never thought we should actually put it up for sale. I would not support that.
    Initially, I thought the proposal from the Collaborative lacked depth and am not sure what the “cultural” component entails.
    I personally would like to Armory contain the focus on the Arts. I would expect the proposers would have to tighten up their proposal and the City would need to define out financial role. I believe we should be involved in their management structure.
    I think we should consider covering the buildings utilities expenses. I believe the Armory’s focus on the Arts could complement the Chateau Theatre in creating an ‘artisitc quarter.’
    Please share with the Council.

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  • 08Sep

    Here is a copy of the completed Chateau Theatre Study.

    It would appear that the glowing recommendations for the ACI proposal at the armory have been scrubbed from this.

     

     

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  • 24Aug

    This just makes my blood boil. I though the Rochester Arts and Culture Collaborative (link included so you can like their Facebook page) did an great job preparing and presenting a proposal to keep the local arts scene vibrant in Downtown Rochester. It seemed a number of times there were games being played behind the scenes to attempt to derail the proposal.

    This was a great project, not only for the Arts community, but also for the numerous cultural groups that were looking for a home. I am saddened by any vision of Rochester or DMC that does not keep our vibrant arts & cultures downtown, I am saddened for the politics that are clearly going on behind the scenes.

    I find it particularly interesting that no staff person ever evaluated or make recommendations on the 2 proposals. As it turns out the Mayor and city administrator withheld some pretty important information from the council.

    First here is what the city administrator read, at first I thought that someone had told him, but he claims he did this on his own.

     photo Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.03.15 PM_zpsw1y0pz1x.png

    More importantly here is what was withheld by the Mayor and Administrator:

     photo Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.02.56 PM_zpsueapchi2.png

    Does this change the discussion? I think so.

    I received verification from the city administrator that both he and the Mayor were aware of this. The city administrator acknowledged he should have shared Recommendation #2. Mark Bilderback who had the report, had not yet read it. I think he was also irritated.

    So basically arts community, I think Nick & I are pretty supportive, Sandra seemed willing to consider this… Get 4 votes, 5 if the mayor vetoes this. I know many of you in the RACC are disappointed of angry, so take action, write letters, contact elected officials. Don’t lose this opportunity. You have assembled an incredible team. I have been and will continue to be there for you.

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  • 04Jun

     photo logo_zpsyabu5ytb.jpg

    So this is the campaign logo I used in 2012. I am thinking about a refresh, but do not have art skills. I am happy to continue using this. Fortunately for me, I live in a community with a tremendous collaborative arts community. I will turn to your creative brilliance for inspiration!

    As such; your challenge if you choose to accept it; is to come up with a new design!

    If your design is picked you will be helping an elected official who is a passionate supporter of the collaborative arts community. You also will get recognition, a growler of a beverage of your choosing from a local business, and swag showing off your design. Also expect an arts party sometime during the campaign! Just Because…

    I try to minimize the rules so as to let your creativity flourish.

    1. Typically my campaign colors have been Orange & White
    2. Of course try to include “Michael Wojcik” and possibly “City Council”
    3. Logos that work large or small tend to be best.
    4. Have fun!

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  • 10Sep

    Uptown photo IMG_9278_zps2j96ce0p.jpeg

    The changing nature of the Uptown area has created tremendous interest in the area. In addition to the project we approved last night, there is another large project in the works. The Grandville apartments that were valued at $25 million just sold for $56 million. Commercial valuations on that stretch are up more than 30% since the project started.  While we have seen this happening downtown its great to see the prosperity spread to a formerly blighted area.

    My hope is that we will continue to make these investments in key areas. I would love to transform North and South Broadway in much the same way.

    The total investment in public art in this area was just under 500k.

    Most importantly this area used to be unsafe for cars, transit, bikes and pedestrians. In not accommodates users of all modes, ages, and ability levels. Seniors at Shorewood can now walk to a restaurant. Daycares can now take kids to the park.

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  • 07May

    I have not had time to read and digest this, but wanted to thank Bari Amadio for providing answers to the community questions.  If you are a member of an arts organization I would appreciate your feedback.  Just as when we compiled the list of questions it will be anonymous.  I have had a lot of feedback that a think tank and any organization overseeing funds must be keep separate for either to have credibility.

    I put the breaks on pretty hard at the last council meeting before any decision could be made.  The fact is we only got the responses at that meeting and the council and community need time to digest the material.

    Response to Request of City Council Representative Michael Wojcik April 4, 2014

    There is a misconception concerning the term BACE which needs to be clarified prior to the response to any questions. Building a Creative Economy aka BACE was a concept designed to change the thinking about the arts in Rochester. It was never a body or an entity in and of itself therefore any reference to BACE as such is a misreading of BACE. Read more…

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