• 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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  • 12Jun

    Today I will propose a change to how the City of Rochester oversees $7 million dollars in support for outside agencies. I am frustrated with the status quo and am pursuing corrective action.

    The memo that I prepared for the council can be found here.

    Recent events have shown a persistent weakness in our oversight of public funds. This proposal would create professional oversight and decrease the influence of political connections in the allocation of public funds. I view this as a needed step to restore public faith in our management public funds going to partner organizations. While not every organizations has had issues, every taxpayer dollar deserves meaningful public oversight.

    Here is the approximate amount of taxpayer funds being issued to outside organizations in 2017.

     photo 2017 City Outside Contributions_zps10d0huev.jpg

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  • 22Mar

    The 4 members of the Rochester Ethical Practices Board (3 participating) were unable to find that I committed any violations of Rochester’s Code of Ethics. They have now referred this to an independent investigator to further check if any violations occur. There appeared to be some difficulty understanding the 18 page submission. While this will cost more taxpayer dollars, some members of the board indicated that they were struggling to understand the complaint, so this is a prudent course of action. I look forward to the final dismissal of this complaint.

    I am proud of the work I am doing to bring transparency and oversight to the use of tax dollars and look forward to continuing to do so for years to come.

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  • 01Mar

    Additional materials on the Greater Rochester Arts & Cultural Trust (Bari’s) ethics complaint. I still haven’t read all of the first one so I am just posting this for transparency purposes.

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  • 24Feb

    Even though the ethics complaint is private information until reviewed next month, in the interest of transparency I will publish the document in full as soon as I can get it electronically. I will do this regardless of what it says. Not sure I will get to learn what the complaint is about until Monday. I am also insisting that I receive the first version as well as the revised version as I am interested in what changed.

    Edit: OK to answer a smart ass question I just received, if the complaint contains nude photos of me I will still publish it and that is on you…

    Yesterday I published the note from the city administrator (in its entirety Jay…). The Post Bulletin also posted addition letters from earlier in that communication thread. That is about all there is… So if you see something there that is unethical let me know.

    I am also trying to gather every single communication I can find since 2014 between myself and Bari Amadio. I also intend to publish every one of those correspondences. I will also publish additional notes on the topic involving city staff and the board chair.

    FYI, here is my 2017 ethics disclosure form. I think you will find exceptionally, even painfully thorough.

    I will be adding one board that I am in the process of joining, the Southeastern Minnesota Association of Regional Trails (SMART).

    Yes, the transmittal letters are waiting for the Chair’s signature.  She will be in on Monday to sign.  I hope to make into the office this afternoon.  If you want, I can make a copy of all documents, place them in an envelope, and place the envelope in your box in the City Clerk’s Office.  Just let me know.

    Terry

    ________________________________
    From: Michael Wojcik [votewojcik@gmail.com]
    Sent: Friday, February 24, 2017 8:56 AM
    To: Adkins, Terry
    Subject: complaint

    I guess this was filed on the 21st, please send me all documentation as I believe I can get copy per the ordinance.


    Regards,

    Michael Wojcik
    Rochester City Council – Ward 2

    www.votewojcik.org/blog<http://www.votewojcik.org/blog>

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  • 23Feb

    I was informed verbally by city administrator Stevan Kvenvold in a Tuesday meeting that Bari Amadio filed an ethics complaint against me, after discussing it with the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust Board. Stevan shared this information in an email to the city council today, which effectively makes it public. Here is that email. I have not seen the complaint so I can not speak to it. Members of the GRACT Board in addition to Bari Amadio include Randy Staver, Ardell Brede, Lisa Clarke, Brad Jones, Carla Nelson, Al Mannino, and Joe Powers.

    Mayor/Council: You should be familiar with Council member Wojcik’s request of Bari Amadio to deliver to him a copy of the Public Art Master Plan. Ms. Amadio and her board chair have declined the request, pending a presentation to the Mayor and City Council at an upcoming COW meeting. Michael made the request three or four times and at yesterday’s COW meeting, Michael asked that the Master Plan not be scheduled for a COW meeting for about 3 weeks after the plan had been submitted for public review. The Mayor and Council did not respond to Michael’s request. Ms. Amadio had requested a COW presentation date and a date of 3/27 had been suggested as a presentation data. Since there is not any consensus of the governing body on this matter, we will proceed to schedule the matter for a presentation on 3/27/17. Ms. Amadio indicated that she has filed an ethics violation against Michael regarding the correspondence that occurred between Michael and her on this matter. Steve

    One of my proudest accomplishments on the Rochester City Council was being a driving force behind the creation of an independent ethics commission (it was a big part of my campaign in 2008). It was created with the intent of impartially handling ethics complaints on behalf of both parties. I very much appreciate the job that they have done.  I will cooperate with whatever requests they make. As is the case when I find out what the complaint is about I will likely publish all related materials on my website.

    Other than that I will wait to see the complaint.

    #integrity

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  • 28Oct

    I know these things will be scrutinized heavily so in addition to posting this publicly I will also share some stats.

    Here is a link to my filing.

    84% of my contributors were small dollar donors and almost exclusively from here in Rochester. Most of the other ones are friends or family.

    I have received $0 combined from everyone mentioned in the Med City Beat “Dark Money” expose.

    I have received $0 ever in dark money support.

    I have never had a “Super PAC acting on my behalf.”

    I have received $0 combined from everyone associated with the Alatus Project (realtors, property owners, developers, contractors, etc.). Given the contentious nature, I just didn’t think it would be appropriate to solicit or accept any funds.

    In terms of the development community I received 4 itemized donations from people currently working in Rochester. None have had contentious decisions recently. I believe that every project these folks are associated with passed 7-0, but I have not confirmed this.

    1. Peter & Paul Gerrard – I worked with Peter & Paul on the Metropolitan Marketplace (People’s Food Co-op) Project and the Park at Kutzky. Both of these projects passed unanimously and are widely appreciated by the neighborhoods they reside in. Contrary to a comment that was made, I recused myself for much of the Metropolitan Marketplace Discussion & votes as I was a board member with the Good Food Store Co-op (Now People’s Food). Additionally I receive contributions from Bill. a.k.a. “Big G” and Mary Ann Gerrard. I met Bill before I was even elected to the council and he is now retired, but I do see him every now and then. I met Mary Ann one time when I while visiting Bill at St. Marys. Neither develop in Rochester.
    2. Mark Hanson – I have worked with Mark Hanson on a number of projects, I believe every one has passed unanimously. He is responsible for Orchard Hill Villas, Fox Valley Villas, Meadow Lake Townhomes & Patio Homes, and the last phase of Fox Hill. We have worked well with each other. I have asked for changes here and there to accommodate neighbors, and he has worked with us. Further I have relayed concerns to Mark and he is pretty quick to address them.
    3. Nate Stencil – Nate is working on a number of projects in Rochester most notably the project formerly known as Buckeye, and the workforce housing on the site of the Wicked Moose. The donation showed up unsolicited, through this website after he appeared at a council meeting on the Wicked Moose site. I tend to work quite a bit with affordable housing developers. Because the project was passed and not particularly controversial I was comfortable with this donation.

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  • 27Oct

    #Integrity is on the ballot…

    Lets be clear Dark Money is not attacking me and propping up my opponent because I am a bad candidate, a bad person, or ineffective. They are not painting me as a bad person because people believe that. And they certainly are not shying away from actual issues because I am wrong on them. Lets review the issues and see what they are trying to buy.

    Let review a few policies that I believe dark money people (as outed by the Med City Beat) oppose.

    Municipal Broadband – Longmont CO is similar in size to Rochester and built out a municipal fiber to the home system. People in Longmont get up to 250 times the speeds we get in Rochester for $50 per month. Additionally low-income households can get broadband for less. This would be a huge benefit for local consumers, businesses, and children. John Wade, Journey 2 Growth, Charter Communications and by extension the Dark Money people strongly oppose this. They are trying to silence us on Broadband.

    DMC Money – I have long held that public funds should be held for public benefit. There was a Holiday Inn proposed across from St. Marys. Javon Bea bought the land for somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, he was going to sell the land to a developer a couple years later for around $12 million. The developer then came to the city asking for $6 million in DMC funds to make the project work. I do not believe we should use DMC funds to line the pockets of speculator. While campaign contributions are relatively limited; PACs allow people like Javon or Andy Chafoulias to hypothetically give unlimited funds in secrecy. When you see the kind of money at stake you can see why $50k to manipulate an election is a good purchase.

    Affordable Housing – Inclusionary Zoning is best and most effective policy for creating affordable housing. I support this policy (along with a number of others) and have led the charge to develop a plan for Rochester. My opponent, Patrick Sexton, SEMAR, and by extension the dark money people strongly oppose this. They are trying to silence us on affordable housing.

    Historic Preservation – I support a strong preservation ordinance that will protect our most special historic places like historic 3rd street, the Paine Furniture Building, and similar. We know preservation works in Rochester, just look at the current home of Blue Duck. I respect property rights as the Supreme Court has settled this issue. However, John Wade, Chamber of Commerce, Rochester Area Builders, and SEMAR created their own group dedicated to making sure Rochester’s preservation ordinance was the weakest in the state of Minnesota. It is no surprise that there are connections here to Dark Money. They are trying to silence us on Historic Preservation.

    Developer Subsidies – One of the greatest injustices in comes to you every month in your RPU bill. There you will find something called a Sewer Customer Charge (city charge). In the last decade this has gone up by many hundred percent. Most of this increase is actually a subsidy for new homes. A sewer plant expansion was done years ago solely for the purpose of serving new development. The problem was the Rochester Area Builders Association didn’t want to pay the actual cost of services so they got the city council to instead put most of the cost on existing ratepayers. This is a horribly regressive tax. It is entirely truthful to say that in the city of Rochester the very poorest renters in the community actually pay extra every single month to subsidize the construction of million dollar homes. This is madness, but a policy advocated for by the Chamber of Commerce, SEMAR, and Rochester Area Builders and by extension Dark Money. They wish to silence the voice that fights against this subsidy.

    Stay tuned… Many, many more examples coming / edits coming… Volunteers currently working to write more examples.

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  • 24Oct

    I did, Jesse Welsh did not. She certainly does not deserve the slander & threats that Javon is levying against her.

    Want to know why dark money and hidden contributions are pouring into at least 2 local races? Read on…

    I will share some information, while withholding discussion on how the project may or may not meet required criteria (the quasi-judicial part of this).

    In preparing for the discussion of the now continued project; I reached out to Fresh Thyme. Based on their corporate philosophy and previous developments, I was skeptical of some of the claims that Javon Bea had made. As it turns out Javon and his team made false statements to the neighborhood, community leaders, and Fresh Thyme. I have a world of respect for people like Nate Stencil who are interested in finding consensus with neighbors. While there were a number of false statements made; the most significant was placing the blame for the offset pedestrian intersection and poor design of 16th on Fresh Thyme. Not true, as with any competent firm putting active faces on multiple sides of buildings is not difficult.

    But it wasn’t just city leaders and neighbors that were being told false statements, Javon also failed to communicate neighborhoods concerns to Fresh Thyme. Fresh Thyme was of the impression that Javon had worked with the neighborhood and there were no concerns. I filled in the concerns that Javon left out. I also sent Javon’s correspondences with the neighborhood. I will also say Javon never mentioned that Fresh Thyme was the grocer, but smart people figured that out.

    I can say after speaking with Fresh Thyme I have a great deal of respect for their organization. They are small but growing and have some great people on their team. I suspect the neighborhood would welcome them with open arms into our community. They would be a great addition to Kutzky Park.

    I can also say everyone wanted to work together on the project to make it a success with just a few exceptions. Basically Javon, a city administrator, and some council members (he only talked with 5, deliberately excluding myself and Nick Campion from some discussion) that he thought he could force the project through without addressing reasonable concerns, despite the large concessions he was asking for. The irony is not lost that people who want to pretend to be consensus builders; made no attempt to work towards consensus.

    I am not sure why the hearing was continued only that it was done after one of Javon’s consultants spoke with a couple council members before the meeting.

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  • 27Sep

    Edit: See the apology from the Rochester Area Builders Association below. As far as I am concerned end of story…

    My pledge to the people of Rochester is to act with integrity and courage. I participated in 2 candidate discussions one was very good (Jane Belau) and the other left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I did accept the invitation from the Rochester Area Builders to come sit on a candidate panel. This is not usually the most friendly group I go in front of, but I always accept their invitations and have developed some friends there. However starting the event off with the stench of racism is not something that I have any patience for. While I was tempted to walk out of the room and event, I decided to instead stay and make a point.

    I sat in disbelief as a member of the RAB got up and told an anti-Mexican joke to the laughter of some in the crowd and the jaw dropping amazement of others. What an embarrassment to our community that this can happen at a candidate forum. Compounding my disbelief was the passing glance that the executive director made after the comment. I was further stunned that as the event began, the moderator (Jerry Williams, who I have great respect for) again pretended as if this hadn’t happened.

    I changed my open remarks, I talked about how I have always been an outsider, I talked about my commitment to smart growth, I gave a little bit of my biography. Then I mentioned that I was also the person that will say things that are unpopular. I then proceed to explain that anti-Mexican jokes are not OK in our community. And I assure you the joke was as dumb as the sentiment it reflected. I explained that the RAB has a reputation as a “good old boys” club and these comments do nothing to eliminate that stigma. I stated that I am a city council member that stands to represent the very people that they can have a laugh at. I also explained that it is not OK for organization staff or the moderator to just glance over these comments. At the conclusion of my remarks, you could have heard a pin drop. As I looked around the room I was also happy to see some people nodding in agreement, but many more in stunned silence. And still not a comment from the RAB staff or moderator or other candidates. Very disappointing…

    And then the forum continued, some people gave pandering answers to loaded questions, others spoke more honestly. My opponent, and Mark Bilderback did well. My positions on issues were different from my opponents on neighborhoods, CUDE, Historic Preservation, Parkland Dedication, and Developer Subsidies. I would venture to say that his answers were more popular than mine in every instance. PJ Day lost me after he said that neighborhoods had too much power and had to be reigned in, and added he wanted to see money flowing back to help maintain his tri-plex apartment.

    If civility means ignoring racism, count me out. At this point I am calling on the Rochester Area Builders Association to publicly apologize for providing a platform for the racist comments to be made and to apologize for failing to address or speak out against those same racist comments in any meaningful way.

    I am ashamed for having been there. After my panel I decided to leave despite the event continuing.

    City Council Candidates:

    Thank you for your participation in the Rochester Area Builder’s candidate forum and listening to concerns of our members. We look forward to further discussion leading up to the election on November 8th.

    Below is the Rochester Area Builder’s official response from Executive Director John Eischen in regards to concerns that were raised during last night’s candidate forum.

    At last night’s Membership meeting, an individual from the audience told a joke that was offensive to members and others in attendance. I would like to apologize for any offense that the joke may have caused. We are and will continue to be an inclusive and welcoming association and we do not condone racism or discrimination in any form.

    Sincerely,

    John Eischen, Executive Director, Rochester Area Builders, Inc.

    and from Jerry Williams:

    I’m sorry this happened, Michael, and apologize for not saying something. Actually, at the time, I sensed it was more of an anti-Trump story than a racist one, thus my lack of a comment. Either way, the remark was inappropriate.

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