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.
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.
From: Michael Wojcik [email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2017 8:56 AM
To: Adkins, Terry
I guess this was filed on the 21st, please send me all documentation as I believe I can get copy per the ordinance.
Rochester City Council – Ward 2
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.
I know these things will be scrutinized heavily so in addition to posting this publicly I will also share some stats.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
Edit: I sent this to SEMAR and told them, “I don’t want your endorsement, I don’t want your money, please keep working for my opponent.”
I have a great deal of respect for Real Estate Professionals in our community, but far less for Patrick Sexton’s political agenda and the leadership at SEMAR that seems to be enabling it. I don’t want to live in a community that is dominated by cronyism or special interests. I will continue to fight for great neighborhoods and fair public policies in Rochester.
As such, rather than responding to the SEMAR questionnaire, I am instead inviting any REALTOR to send me your questions and I will publish your questions, and my answers here. I’ll start out:
What would you do to meet the demand for affordable housing in Rochester?
Here is something that I wrote in 2014, which remains pretty accurate today.
Insert your question here.
16JulBarry Skolnick, filed 3 ethics complaints over the city council dinner meetings once a month. While all 3 were found NOT to be violations by the independant ethical practices board, I think Barry has a point.I understand why some people find the format of the meeting to be beneficial, I personally think that this is a legacy of the past that should probably be ended.I don’t expect that this will happen but there are 2 things that I have insisted be considered. 1st these meetings should be held in locations that are accessible to those without cars attending other meetings. Second, the public should be able to hear discussion and review council member positions taken on issues discussed.I chose to skip a recent meeting at the Rochester Golf & Country Club for this very reason. I expressed my concerns in the past and have no interest in attending optional meetings where the many members of the public can not participate.Interestingly this topic was covered by the Post Bulletin 1989:
Good to see such a strong decision coming from the Ethical Practices Board. I consider this decision a win for good government and the tax paying public.
- I’m glad I asked the question, a literal reading of the ethics ordinance did find a conflict of interest.
- The RAB Paid Lobbyist may sit on the Heart of the City Board.
- The RAB Paid Lobbyist may not participate in or vote on items that would benefit ANY of the local companies he is paid to represent.
- If the RAB Paid Lobbyist does participate in discussion or votes that directs a contract towards any of the companies he represents it will be a conflict of interest.
- The language in the Code of Ethics needs to be updated as currently there are a huge number of people unintentionally violating the literal wording.
- The Independent Ethical Practices Board adds to the chorus calling for a better board appointment process.