consultants are sandburs

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Here is a link to the spreadsheet Ramsey's CFO provided for city disbursement history to Landform. The "Darren Dollars" story.

Click here to view or download the "Darren Dollars" spreadsheet.

Leave a comment if there's any access problem.

Times are hard, but there is a silver lining to the cloud. Just not my cloud. Not yours.

read all about it at Strib

Shakedown street.

But, kids, be smart; if you lay down with dogs you get fleas; this Strib link.

And the place this should be fixed is at the level of government sponsored or government backed student lending. If young people with poor judgment can get the loan easily; they can be snookered. If the loan money is there only for legitimate higher education, fraudsters will find another game, and hoepfully not one duping the young.

Monday, July 30, 2012

RAMSEY - Today I will be coordinating visiting the city clerk's office to examine contract documents relating to course of negotiation and the finalization of the Flaherty purchase of the ground on which Emily McGlone is now supervising and assisting construction, as an employee of Flaherty people.

This is part of my having to ferret out time line facts concerning the McGlone employment because of the total reticence from that camp. Transaction closing statements, covered by my data discovery request, apparently are still being finalized, or were as of last week. That's the follow the money info, re the transfer of title from City of Ramsey to Flaherty or to whatever Flaherty shell LLC is involved in taking title. Or to whatever entity will be holding title.

I view recording the deed as the finalization of course of negotiation, to shift to course of performance of this ongoing debt obligation of the Flaherty interests to our City, with Colin McGlone, to the best of my knowledge continuing as HRA head in ongoing Flaherty debt satisfaction dealings, and with wife Emily McGlone taking a regular Flaherty paycheck of undisclosed magnitude now and into the future for an undisclosed length of time while the HRA oversees what bona fide effort is forthcoming in the future from Flaherty people, in repaying the city its millions of risk capital dollars tied up in this risk-prone adventure.

Because of the potential for mischief in arrangements such as where personal family pecuniary interests intersect official performance of duties, Minn Stat Sect 469.009 governing HRA conflicts of interest (as explained in a 1994 AGO) requires a written notice be given the public, so that things go to the court of public opinion. It is the law, to protect and foster the public's right to know and then knowing, to judge.

This statute was not complied with in our case, or I have found no evidence of HRA chairman McGlone following that clear statutory requirement regarding the McGlone family's benefit of Flaherty employment.

Because the statute demands written notice within five days of the conflict arising, had the statute been complied with and notice been duly and properly put into HRA minutes we would not have to speculate when exactly the McGlone employment negotiations started, as is now the case due to willful McGlone silence.

And where the evidence is exclusively in the possession of those not disclosing it, we citizens are entitled to reasonably presume it would be unfavorable to those withholding it.

The McGlone employment seems to have been navigated with a hope of staying under the public's radar, vs there being suitable, reasonably detailed, and prompt public disclosure. One major question is where was the genesis of employment discussion, the date of the very fist discussion and among whom, in the course of dealing in this entire complex multi-million dollar thing where apparently closing statements are still being prepared so that the employment clearly predates full resolution of the land transfer out of City ownership. In that context, a rerun,

click to enlarge and read

Wow, running in 2008, seeking the public's trust, Colin McGlone wrote, "In today's economical climate, residents have enough to worry about without adding the burden of the city's past mistakes. [...] In addition to attracting business to Ramsey, we must also look at creative ways to develop income streams. [...] We already have plenty of parking."

That was in the context of the past decision, made during boom times, that building a new City Hall in an overopulent way would "catalyze" the entirety of Town Center happening to yield us a tax base Nirvana.

In office, McGlone has played in concert with Darren Lazan of Landform, the "tune" that cramming down the Flaherty thing would "catalyze" booming possibilities of "the COR."

Deja vu? Unexpectedly so?

Then there is: creative cash flow, and already then having enough parking:

McGlone was decisive in decision making to build more parking paid for with public funds, to give it away to a developer; to give free SAC and WAC to that developer; and to get a spousal job with that developer.

That is cash flow but outward and not inward to our city. Cash flowed out on the ramp expansion and the free utilities waiver to developer Flaherty; and really not all that "creative." The key fact is a cash flow from not to the city. Plus turning the city into a land speculator and a developers' bank. Plus a spousal hiring.

If you had known back then the kind of creative cash flowing the man would play a key role in instituting, including Flaherty cash flowing to the McGlone household, would you have voted for the man?  I am glad I endorsed Andre Champagne, McGlone's only opponent back then. I endorsed Ramsey and Wise then, expecting fiscal conservatism, not massive million dollar money flowing out from the City to Landform; and not the firing of staff and then issuance of lucretive contracts to outsiders (who coincidentally had Michael Jungbauer on the Landfrom payroll at the time of first insertion of the Landform foot into the City door - these politicians on payroll antics are something, aren't they).

My expectations were not met. I expected fiscal conservatives to do things differently, if being fiscal conservatives at all. There's no money now to do roadway upkeep. But there's bonding for Flaherty.

There were reserves at perhaps too high a level, (I think the level four years ago was unnecessarily high), and the reserves were spent down to purchase the distressed Town Center's remaining vacant land. The logical expectation was that the land would be held and available for a developer to approach the city and to negotiate terms and conditions to transfer the land, in bulk to such a private sector risk taker. Instead, we have three council members up for reelection now who played "fantasy developer" games because it was a kick to them I guess, or because in their judgment, it seemed the thing to do. I think that extremely bad judgment. In a punk market worse than anything since the Great Depression, these guys are married to paying ongoing regula five-figure money to Darren Lazan of Landform with what, one big sign on Highway 10 to show for it, while Jim Deal has brought the community two clinics as a private entrepreneur, and shown how savvy and experienced private sector risk takers can operate and accomplish things.

The Governor's bonding bill brought a Northstar stop, like it or love it, but do not let this pack of local politicians and their $1.18 million dollar consultant take credit for what others have done.

Darren's only scalp on the tent pole is the Flaherty deal, and that only happened with gross levels of subsidy unprecedented in our City's history; and with the city in the hole for bonded millions loaned to Flaherty which, luck being as good as possible, may be paid back.

McGlone in that campaign web screen capture promised creative cash flows, and the most creative cash flow yet seen is the Flaherty to McGlone family cash flow. Colin McGlone and nobody else but the other undisclosed folks on the Flaherty side of things were instrumental in engineering that little hummer.

So, did he perform as promised; just in a sort of unexpected way? What?

In closing, McGlone opined in 2008, "In today's economical climate, residents have enough to worry about without adding the burden of the city's past mistakes." What he should have paid attention to then, is not adding to any burden of past mistakes.

Just as the new town hall in past years was not anybody's "catalyst" as James Norman had promised during the boom years; this Flaherty thing in our depressed times will not catalyze shops and restaurants. And Flaherty's knowledge of exactly that is mirrored in the history of dealings and discussions over the meager 3000 square feet of commercial space the man did not want to include in his adventure, knowing what he knows from his experience in developing real estate of the kind he is inserting into Ramsey. Flaherty had problems moving first floor retail in his downtown Indianapolis "Cosmopolitan by the Canal" thing; and that is in a vibrant downtown climate; not some experimental thing in the hinterlands of the Twin City metro area.

The McGlones added to the burden of past mistakes. Risk to taxpayers was multiplied. The McGlones feathered their own nest. At the same time this council has thrown good money after bad in a market that was depressed when they started their wastefulness, is depressed still, and will be depressed on election day.

And all the time this council has been paying regular money to Lazan/Landform in exchange for little to nothing with the money spent on that as of our August 14 primary being equal to or in excess of:


city dollars given Lazan/Landform since August of 2009 with not one single penny of that expense predating those serving before this present council aside from Matt Look who supported the Landform expense, but left, and David Jeffrey and John Dehen, who opposed it, but left. 

Consider who on our present council has voted most responsibly, since Jeffrey left and there was a special election. That is the time frame in which bonding for Flaherty was put through; and in which the McGlone employment took root; with the Flaherty adventure done as it has been not being an ongoing unanimous decision.

Back to normal size font. After reviewing the file of ongoing contract papers two things were apparent. First, the City Clerk was checking vote talley machinery for the primary and I was in the way. Second, the thing still has not closed, the lawyers and title company dancing and the lawyers' meter running, as it will. There were a bunch of extra signed but not notarized papers in the Clerk's working file, and I needed to file a follow-up data request form, hoping that CFO Lund could provide a payout history on the bonding cash proceeds to Flaherty. As I understand things title has not been transferred yet and all the Flaherty work going on is per an intervening easement. There apparently was a sense of urgency to capitalize on the remaining good construction season as well as to get the supervisory workforce in place and performing out of the project trailers. (A commonality of goals, not a conflict?)

Yet, if the paperwork is held up in escrow, getting to where the title company will cut a policy, I expect the Flaherty LLC shells' note(s) are in escrow and the David Flaherty personal guarantee too; so the question is whether the city is doling out cash without holding actual physical possession of the note(s) and guarantee.

So, you tell me, did the McGlone employment await and follow the transaction, or did it jump into being while loose ends were yet to be tied? Colin McGlone had to sign those multiple papers that required HRA signatures, signing as HRA Chair along with Ulrich as HRA staff head. EDA had to sign stuff. The mayor had to sign for the CITY.

At least our little town, Ramsey, proliferating itself into multiple personalities via HRA and EDA budded clones, has fewer "entities" than Flaherty folks, who have two LLC shells, one to take title and one to run the rental day-to-day, David himself to sign, and general and sub contractors along with Ms. McGlone as a payroll entitiy, one of several to run construction at the site.

How all that Flaherty shell stuff affects Ramsey's HRA and council decision to be the Flaherty bank of last resort will matter, if the thing goes splat. [FURTHER UPDATE - Text of notes and guarantees are not universal boiler plate, but instead there can be much weasel-wording at play. I believe that unless/until the council members sitting as HRA and as Council separately approve note and guarantee text there is no meeting of minds on both sides. A note should specifiy the full principal becomes due and owing upon any default. Late payment penalties can be specified, or not. The guarantee should waive all defenses, including pursuit of all available legal remedies against the primary obligor before asserting rights against the guarantor of the obligation. Etc., etc. And so forth. It's a thicket of ways that David Flaherty can obfuscate and delay, if his guarantee does not waive all defenses so that on a belly-up defalut/failure the city can quickly and effectively reach into David Flaherty's own deep pocket for redress. The contract is not fully final until it is final in all material details, just as Yogi Berra said that the Ring operas are not over until Brunhilde's last aria in Götterdämmerung.]

If it works, the ton of paperwork will remain stuck in some file cabinet storage area. Modern technology has reached law offices even. Bray's firm will truck out to the city the ton of paper, along with a CD of it. I have a request pending for a CD copy when the truck arrives.

Bottom line, Emily McGlone started drawing Flaherty paychecks before the entire deal was formal and final in all detail. Does that matter? Others should review the entire situation and hopefully that may happen. Meanwhile, we have a primary half a month away -




Friday, July 27, 2012

Some things are worth emphasis more than once.

Go back. Read this. Watch the linked video. What modality did Abramoff use to hook his target officials? Check it out.

RAMSEY - Charter reform as a timely campaign issue.

I emailed two simple questions to all Ramsey's council candidates for whom I could find email addresses on the city's election webpage, or otherwise (with Jeremy Chubb being the only candidate I could not reach for lack of an email address). The questions are:

1- Do you favor tightening up on conflict of interest by putting strong and definitive wording into the charter?

2- Do you favor amending the recall provisions to make it easier for citizens to oust council members?

I requested those declining to answer to at least acknowledge receiving the email.

Those are very important questions in my mind. In terms of tossing out a mayor or other council member, click and enlarge and read this charter blurb, current recall text, and ask yourself, how could I ever cull out a bad apple.

That's from Ch.5, p.13, of the Ramsey Charter. Read it and weep, you have no real right to cull. It's been written into impossibility, via godawfully phrased garbage-wording.

The situation is worse regarding conflict of interest. The charter is dead silent on the issue, and it happened with the Kurak Town Center land promotion, the Bauer Gun Club conversion effort, and now with the McGlone-Flaherty situation, this making the question of Charter reform very, very timely.

I urge every serious citizen-voter to read this entire AGO, excerpted below, (with "AGO" meaning Attorney General Opinion). An AGO is the gold standard of outside advisory opinions a town attorney can procure and far more reliable a thing than asking an opinion of someone at a busy advocacy group such as LMC, or a chum at some other law firm. Resort to outside opinions are helpful and arguably absolutely necessary "due diligence" steps, for a town counsel to supplement his/her own duly diligent and aptly thorough inquiry into all relevant facts - the full panoply of circumstantial evidence that often includes decisive detail that only skill and diligence can uncover - along with comparably diligent town lawyer research into applicable law. A first year law school aphorism I recall, at the start of research ask if a statute exists and then find out what it says as your very first step.

But that is only a start, not an end by itself.

Interestingly, this one seems to have fallen between the cracks, thus underscoring our town's own separate but immediate need to be the frontrunner in spelling out Charter language protecting town citizen taxpayers from conflict situations we might not even know of, or which may be brought to public scrutiny only by serendipity, where that which is undisclosed or inadequately so nonetheless becomes public knowledge. And when serendipity is all you can rely on, gaining keystone facts in whole or in part can be like pulling hen's teeth because the conflicted official likely will be silent and unwilling to put a full and timely written disclosure statement, as a minimum, into ah appropriate set of official meeting minutes.

In the case of this AGO that "appropriate set of official meeting minutes" were for an HRA, i.e., a Housing and Redevelopment Authority, such as Ramsey's (which Colin McGlone chairs); and the opinion as authored back in 1994 is on the web and easily found at the Attorney General's website:

Under Minn. Stat. § 469.003 (1992), each city in this state may establish a Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). A Housing and Redevelopment Authority is composed of five commissioners appointed by the mayor with the approval of the governing body of the city. [...] One of the current Farmington HRA commissioners is the owner and operator of a cabinet manufacturing business. This commissioner has stated his intent to bid on cabinet work for the developments which are the subject of Farmington HRA contracts for approved projects. [... You ask whether there is a conflict of interest prohibition ...]

[...N]otice and non-participation provisions are now contained in Minn. Stat. § 469.009 (1992). That section provides inter alia that a potential conflict of interest is present when:

...the commissioner knows or has reason to know that the organization with which the commissioner is affiliated is or is reasonably likely to become a participant in a project or development which will be affected by the action or decision.

The statute requires a commissioner who has a potential conflict of interest to disclose that potential conflict to the commissioners of the Authority in writing no later than one week after the commissioner becomes aware of the potential conflict. That commissioner is further prohibited from attempting to influence any employee in any matter related to the action or decision in question, cannot take part in the action or decision, and shall not be counted toward a quorum during the portion of any meeting of the Authority in which the action or decision is to be considered.

[... W]e conclude that a commissioner may enter contracts in his or her private capacity upon HRA projects, if the notice and non-participation requirements of Section 469.009 are met. In that regard, while the commissioner's business will not be one of the developers whose projects will be directly approved by the HRA, it is possible that the commissioner could end up participating in the project through the bidding process conducted by the developer. The statute not only prohibits a commissioner from participating in decisions where the commissioner's later participation is certain, but also prohibits participation in decision making when the likelihood is indirect. Therefore, in our view, the commissioner should follow the disclosure and non-participation provisions set forth in Minn. Stat. § 469.009 whenever the commissioner intends to bid on work to be performed in a development project. If the commissioner were to contemplate bidding on work connected with a large portion of the HRA's projects, he would then be precluded from participating officially as a commissioner in connection with those projects. In such circumstances, the commissioner would be, in large part, ineffectual as a member of the HRA. Therefore, if the commissioner proposes to bid for work on a significant portion of the HRA-approved projects, he should consider resigning from his official position.

The problem you present is just one indication of the need for legislative clarification of the rules governing "conflicts of interest" in general and in government contracting in particular. The absolute criminal prohibition of Minn. Stat. § 471.87 against any public officer having any personal financial interest in, or gaining personal financial benefit however slight from, contracts, even as modified by the ad hoc series of exceptions contained in Section 471.88, stands in contrast to other statutory provisions, [...] which discuss the common rule of disqualification of public officials from participating in certain non-contract actions wherein they have a personal interest.

There is no question that opportunity, or even the public perception of opportunity, for self-dealing by public officials must be carefully avoided. However, it is submitted that not every "personal financial interest" is of sufficient magnitude to support an absolute criminal prohibition against a public officer holding or continuing to hold office if a proposed "contract" affecting that interest may arise. Furthermore, in light of the severe consequences imposed for violation of the prohibitions of Sections 471.87 and 469.009, subd. 3, we believe that public officials are entitled to clearer directions concerning when, and how, their personal interests may permissibly intersect with those of a government agency with which they serve.

And there you have it. In 1994 it was recognized that clear standards protective of citizens from "self dealing" which also give notice to potential transgressors of there being a clear line drawn and where it is, were needed. And the legislature has been dilatory to the point that we luckily have a Charter as a charter city, and can write our own rules and not make them the least common denominator; avoidance of declared criminal conduct, and instead make our standards higher as a beacon for others to see and follow.

Our town's had enough. Our town has a means to improve and reform. The Charter.

Specifics are always helpful. Criminalization of nondisclosure, including token vs full disclosure, up front in writing and put into the minutes as part of the minutes is great as a protection; if enforced and not ignored with a "So sue me" attitude.

Next, you are pushing your own land deal, your father-in-law's, or your cash flow after critical single vote margins where but for the votes there'd be no pot of goal because the rainbow would have had a different end. Any of that. Get off the council. Get off the EDA. The HRA. The Planning Commission. If you are a privateer, go wholly private.

That's my sense of how to do things right. Others may differ. But what we've seen, and how some officials can repeatedly turn a blind eye and a cauterized nose to what's there to sense, is something that's overdue for a fix.

A Flaherty mixed tenancy project, that looks less ugly than most Flaherty stuff.

Reported here. Right up to the sidewalk, as with the Ramsey thing. No set back. I hope they shovel their snow.

Another Flaherty item, the construction arm, from a Thrusday report here. They have many things going on, wide ranging.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I do not know much about "The Journal" but there are two items of interest.

Here, a good analysis:

Michael Brodkorb filed his much anticipated lawsuit on Monday, claiming he was unfairly treated when he was fired from his job as the GOP caucus' communications director after he had an affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Defendants in the suit are the Minnesota Senate, Cal Ludeman, the Senate Secretary who fired Brodkorb, and the state of Minnesota.

We wonder what the heck the state of Minnesota did to get involved in this?

Brodkorb was technically a state employee, we suppose, but he was hired by the Senate Republicans, served the Senate Republicans and was fired by them. Republicans didn't consult with Governor Mark Dayton or the DFL caucus, with other government authorities or with the people of the state.

That is the lion's share of that post. A different topic and lengthier coverage noting at the end that Friday's TPT Almanac will have a regional debate of general interest; here. I am unaware of any major Republican blogsphere segment highlighting this event, and the likelihood is it may reach and interest a statewide audience. Having, I expect, a few Republican readers, this is Crabgrass helping out.

Paul Levy - Strib reporting on Anoka County District 1 primary candidates.

Levy gives balanced vignettes of each of the four candidates, here.

Darren Dollars, for what kind of deal? The peoples money, for gambling? Put another way, how would YOU blow a million?

This is a taxpayer test. You pay. You can play. Your council has three who consistently supported money for Darren, for his Landform firm, to the tune of a grand total figure presented to me by a disclosure email from Ramsey's CFO Lund, current as of July 24, 2012, the disclosed total being:


The three consistent pro-Landform individuals on council and now bidding to be reelected are Wise seeking reelection, McGlone seeking reelection, and Ramsey seeking reelection. They during their term socialized a major land risk for a sick remaining half-of-a-failed-town-center, for millions.

This socialized land speculation decision was made back in the summer of 2009 (before Look quit on the council to chase a bigger county paycheck so Look was a part of things). Our elected representatives since engineering that multi-million dollar expenditure out of reserves have proceeded to provide that million plus figure, to Landform.

For that expenditure, taxpayers were rewarded by a growth of public debt to subsidize a gamble of a Mr. Flaherty of Indiana, to the tune of  yet more millions, this being the story - in part a story reaching years into Ramsey's future,

The city issued Tax Increment Bonds on April 24, 2012 and they were bought by Northland Securities. The Principal amount of the bond issue was $7,420,000 (F&C was authorized $6,825,000 for construction) The remainder was to cover issuance costs (which F&C has reimbursed the city HRA $91,000 per loan agreement) and capitalized interest (the first bond payment is June 2015 as this is when F&C is required to take the city out). The bonds debt schedule is June 2015 - June 2024.

What a deal.

That quoted bonding summary is from an earlier disclosure request response of Ramsey's CFO. In you mind, the taxpayer test is, do you reelect Wise, McGlone, or Ramsey?

Details of that opening over-a-million dollar number will be posted. In the next few days I intend to put up on the web the spreadsheet provided days ago by Ramsey's CFO in response to a data disclosure request; making it available on the web in a way you and other citizens can download.

That way if Wise, or Ramsey, or McGlone show up at your door politicking for four more years, and blowing fine smoke about how great they've been for you, you can pull out the spreadsheet you've printed out, and ask, "What's this, fella?" Expect fine explanations.

For now just let the numbers themselves speak. The cash drain, and the gamble. Let their message sink in.

Ask yourself, has Flaherety put as much of his own wealth up front in real hard cash into his adventure, as our City of Ramsey has? Ask Wise. Ask McGlone. Ask Ramsey. If they show up at your door politicking. Ask them to show you the proof of Flaherty's own starting capital if any gambled in Flaherty's adventurous risks for Ramsey. Not Flaherty borrowing millions more from a Pittsburgh bank. His own starting capital. Not Flaherty promising now he will guarantee this or that with the test of any such guarantee being in the future, well past November's election.

Hard real cash up front Flaherty capital is the question. He is called a "capitalist" isn't he? Does he hold himself out as a "subsidy seeker?" Is that the image he occasionally comes to town to project to us? Look past the fine watch and suit. Ask the question. An easy question; "If you're a capitalist, what of your present hard-real-dollar capital are you putting at risk up front in your rental thing, in Ramsey?"

Ask our hoping-for-reelection people to show you the numbers. You may be told of potentialities. Things that might come true. You may be told one or more of the three gentlemen cannot see how the Flaherty adventure can fail. You may be told a bank stands ready to risk even more than your city on the adventure.

Indeed, a bank has pledged over twenty million, but unlike you and your city, it gets a mortgage security interest against the Flaherty adventure property. Whatever any of the three reelection gentlemen may tell you, ask, how much real money Flaherty has spent while the city already has cut bonds in his behalf obligating the city to repay millions to bondholders, regardless of whether the Flaherty adventure succeeds or fails. Ask yourself, if you had that million plus, would you have kept spending it on Darren, with only a big debt sinkhole to show for it many months after cash flows to Landform began? After all, it is your public money that has gone to Landform. Given to Landform. Gambled on Darren. Gambled on his capabilities.

Earlier I linked to Sakry's thorough report from a over year ago, when numbers were lower and no special bonding (to play at being Flaherty's public funds banker) had happened. Sakry reported in March of 2011:

Suite Living is expected to close in April or May on a 1.85-acre site also west of the existing parking ramp on Sunwood Drive.

The White Bear Lake company plans on building a three-story facility and will have 84 of living/memory care units.

There are also nine to 10 other businesses that he is actively working on deals with, said Lazan.

Lazan said he is also actively talking to 20 entities that are interested in The COR.

Yes, by the tens and twenties. And the check is in the mail and the fish spit the hook.

_________FURTHER UPDATE_________
With the city at risk, it is fair to note that this Strib report is encouraging in suggesting the City may end up being paid back its money in this bankrolling situation. If Flaherty's thing fails in this market, however, nobody can then say it was a sound risk. Moreover, if the hope of a short-term success and payback is met, there is still the long term to worry over. As rental buildings age, they can become problematic, particularly when the current rental vs owned housing situation returns to normal. Then what? Condo conversion? Downhill worries met by changing it from "market rate" to low income housing, the use that Feges-Nedegaard had thought the site merited? With town money already having been put at risk we can only hope the Strib's metrowide reporting works for Ramsey. The reporting gives hope, but does not really lessen it being a gamble.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who is Ryan Cronk. (Hint, he is NOT John Galt.)

This screenshot current as of time date stamp on posting:

click to enlarge and read - source, this link

Ryan Cronk serves two masters, but curiously he seems to serve them both from Indianapolis, Indiana. The cell phone number given for him in the below image is reported by a reverse phone search as from that area code, and a cell.

City of Ramsey webpage - off main city page, here

RAMSEY -- McGlone-Flaherty employment detail.

Click image to enlarge and read.
I had intended to say little more than what's been said already, but I got this email data disclosure from Bill Goodrich. It is relevant, and having it now, I am trying to put together a time line. No detail is being published beyond public notice that it was emailed and received as indicated, 21 hrs ago, July 24, 2012 - 3:06 pm., and I am still trying to put together things to where they make sense to me.

Ramsey racoon lights up, plunging town into last night's darkness.

photo credit
Connexus circulated a robocall, good use of the thing this time, that reached the household minutes ago. One dead racoon, electrocuted to where there's no more mischief in the critter, but it shut down TV and workstations here, as well as lights, the refirgerator and the well pump.

For a few hours at most. But it was at the Connexus substation that apparently supplies all or most of Ramsey. Whether only one distribution region was whacked out or the entire distribution grid from the Connexus site suffered is unclear. I've heard of racoons raiding homesites to where they suffer "red-dot disease," but electrocution is an entire step up. Lucky for Connexus line and service workers it was not a moose. Even luckier, it was not one of them.

Read this.

City Pages, here, with a longer than normal Independence Day deep analysis of one of the things that ails us. It is some of the best writing and analysis I have seen within the local websphere. I found it existed yesderday. Had I discovered it sooner, I would have posted sooner. UPDATE: Don't expect cold reporting. It is an editorial analysis. But entirely true and one infrequently if ever told by mainstream media where the old saying is, "Freedom of the press is great, and if you doubt it go ask someone who owns one."

RAMSEY - The housing bubble collapse, Darren looking for quick commissions, and whether patience and the original thinking is best.

From the black-and-tan:

 Some of the black-and-tan web bloviating has been removed to get the three perps together on one image. And, hey Matt, try the correct form of the past tense of the verb, "to lead" which is "led." It will look better. Then, "our sentinel." Quaint. I believe a precondition to standing oneself up as town sentinel first involves sentience, which is the key question. Beyond those details the three wise men are there together, on the record, proud of their collective integrated intertwined wisdom.

NEXT: Start with Darren. He's sucking regular money out of city funds, which I am sure he finds convenient and something he'd see continue indefinitely, if that's in the cards.

Beyond that, he makes his killings if, against the market as it still stands and suggests it will be trending for years, he can move junk into Town Center with each junk drop making it another Blaine-like shopping knot as at an intersection of Highway 65, but making Darren money. To advance that he's led town officials to standard cookie-cutter shopping mall conventions in Las Vegas, the developers meeting, schmoozing, gambling and looking for sheep for fleecing. Darren brings them sheep. Putting money in Darren's pocket need not be a community goal, however, and the polls are for having a nice little local referendum on Darren.

How it has been, how it should be.

The original Town Center dream, with Natalie having said as best as I recall the quote, "If you do not have a dream someone will lay one on you," is non-congruent with Darren's dream of advancing Darren by ho-hum buildout - the faster the better.

The "original vision" has drawn my objection in the past in that the Mondale son, the one with ties back to Petters and Fingerhut and Met Council and Nazca Software, who now is ballpark guru of Gov. Dayton, pushed "smart growth" and the notion one could buck the trend of Blaine-like ugliness and sameness at every light on the highway and try planning instead. And that planners and community pooh-bahs could fashion Nirvana from Kurak's green acres cornfield.

A ton of hubris goes with that belief. A belief that one could defeat the forces of oil waste and marketeers flogging yet more new-and-zippy automobiles upon us so that we could drive all over everywhere and buy stuff, if only we would first buy over-priced gasoline - something that could sustain itself until peak oil reality sets in to curb the behavior much as the market adjusted to housing reality.

The hubris was that people could be reformed before the peak oil bust. The commitment Ramsey made, agree or disagree with the wisdom - even call it a pact with the Devil, was to preserve much of the character of most of Ramsey by concentrating growth into shared wall along the highway, which also means along Northstar - where there would be a walkable community.

No sooner was that committment made along with much loud public touting of containing and concentrating growth that way; than Elvig, chair of the Town Center Task Force that packaged and marketed that dream much as Coors sells beer, went on council, and pushed for sewer-water to the gun club so Jerry Bauer could make his quick cash-out Crabgrass killing - and never mind the containment and concentration story.

So much for any promise of preserving the rural character of much of Ramsey's nether northern "character." Less shotgun pop-pop neighborhood noise, yes, but less rural "character" too.

Whatever you may think of the containment-concentration vision that was touted and then, things did not happen that way. The shared wall market went real. Etc. Yet do not fail to understand - Darren's quick kill approach is sticking a sharp stick into the eye of that look at the long-term vision, however flawed, and its trying to preserve existing neighborhood integrity and the semi-rural character dream, while marrying the growth monster. And marrying the growth monster is something Met Council is demanding, one way or the other. Blaine or better.

Joni Mitchell had the Big Yellow Taxi song, with the line, "They paved Paradise and put in a parking lot."

That's the present council's "dream." Although some might contest equating Ramsey to Paradise. But let that whole question go for now. Voters must decide whether they like the McGlone-mayor-Matt vision of making us another Blaine, or whether we need the patience to await the market instead of pushing against a rope, and whether we abandon the quick cash for Darren viewpoint and stick with "the Dream" as a better if imperfect and probably impractical thing, but one demanding hope and a twenty to fifty year perspective for hoping.

It is a bipolar choice. Let time run its course with plans and goals, vs quick and dirty and same-as-Blaine.

Personally, I have little faith in either approach, but the one encouraging patience seems to at least be sane vs. Blaine. It is hard to undo mistakes, a lesson the present town savants seem to have missed in considering Nedegaard and the lesson of building a town hall palace that would "catalyze" all else.  Now it's massive ugly rentals by the rails, to catalyze, and has anyone thought, this entire catalyst mythology is a lie and sucks?

It is that simple, this election old vision and patience, or push on a rope to get Darren commissions while chasing the dream of being like Blaine.

A referendum on Darren. On Landform. On a big humongo cash sink, in hard times where money for roadwork is also a concern.

And then there are the Hunts. Owning rural land and not enamored of keeping all the concentration and growth along the highway. During comp planning, there was an invasion of the Hunts. In numbers, every meeting. They own acreage along Highway 5, and want to Crabgrass it. Presumably sooner would have been better to them as they stood with John Peterson's cornfield to be finished and then, Bingo, their turn, fat city on the horizon, just over the rainbow. Then the market in housing went real, and the Hunts consequently have gone into hibernation. Good things can happen from bad times.

But the Hunts are a side-show to the Clown Center main tent show. Even with the election being a chance to be a bit about Hunt thinking vs. preservation thinking.

Another key question is, do we want new faces on council that might reform the charter to tighten it against conflict of interest, when it appears the majority of present folks either chase a conflicting paycheck or turn a blind eye to it?

There is that referendum also in this year's local ballot box.

My brother-in-law got a fortune cookie scroll now fridge-magneted (really there is such a verb because language is fluid and evolving)  yes, fridge-magneted up in the kitchen:
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel. A comedy to those who think."

This post is about the comedy of Town Center, as it is playing out and as you can vote in the election.

Same people retained - love Blaine, you will see it here. The rerouting of Sunwood is the first step. Aim higher if you will, and it involves voting in an alternate set of minds, (using that noun in the broadest sense re present officialdom's sitting majority).

What I find interesting, is that the ones with the long term perspective are Steffen, Jim Deal, and Al Pearson and some on the Ramsey Foundation who are elderly compared to the impatient present official decision makers in city hall.

Those favoring the long-term perspective and hopes are those less likely to live to see a long term future implemented. Yet they do not abandon thinking long term. Those more likely having longer remaining time on earth are lacking patience and a distant vision. Lacking good judgment and experience is how I see it. And Darren wants as much cash and as quickly to him as Darren can convince people into providing him by rote following of his Pied Piper leading of children.

Indeed. A comedy. So kick back and observe - but do vote Aug. 14, and in November.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

RAMSEY - Is it time for an update?

Tammy Sakry of ABC Newspapers did an excellent report of the cash drain Town Center has been, along with opinions expressed by officials; but it was done over a year ago, March of 2011, and time has passed and cash has flowed.

Back then, curiously, Sakry reported:

If the city would not have purchased the 150 acres, then Allina Clinic would not exist and the VA Clinic would not be here and the rail station would not be coming, Mayor Ramsey said during the meeting.

Each of the two clinics is built on land Jim Deal owned before Landform had any contract with the City. The City, via Lazan, competed with Jim Deal for the VA clinic, and we all know the outcome. Lazan was suggesting the clinic should be built on that land the mayor mentioned, that the City had purchased; but it did not happen that way.

Regarding the train stop: At a meeting shortly after the State had allocated taxpayer money to be used on a train stop; I believe it was a mayor's town hall evening where the mayor had invited Michael Jungbauer; the mayor and the Senator each more than once referred to "the Governor's bonding bill" with neither seeming anxious to claim credit for millions of State tax money being secured as local pork for the Northstar train.

Or that is how it seemed, in hearing each refer to "the Governor's bonding bill" as frequently as I heard the term that day.

I expect that Jim Deal had a lot of say in the Northstar stop happening when it did and not later. Jim Deal, like him or not, has been proof that skilled and experienced private sector entrepreneurs get things done - and keep their costs privatized and free of socialism. Any reader knowing or believing otherwise is urged to submit a comment.

Lazan, who had Cronk of the Flaherty firm on board from the get-go, did finally get a closing in favor of the Flaherty firm; and no other closings; but that was only after [1] a ramp expansion funded wholly out of public money for giving Flaherty cost-free parking; [2] a compromise of the SAC and WAC charges that developers like Flaherty normally are expected to pay; and then [3] that multi-million dollar gamble of public money to finance the part of it Flaherty's Pittsburgh bank would not finance and which Flaherty was unable or unwilling to fund for himself.

I guess Flaherty is no Jim Deal, or he likes to share his risks with taxpayers; while Deal has behaved as he has.

I have a request in for updated numbers of spending on the Lazan consultancy; Vegas; and such, asking Ramsey's CFO Diana Lund for that public data by month's end, and so far she's not indicated any inability or problems with that time frame. I believe my good friend Bill Goodrich is aware of my having data requests, and understands the reach and legislative expectations underlying Minnesota's Public Data Act. I hope to have good numbers from the City by months end, to share with readers.

Citizens have a right to know the current numbers. Holding back such data disclosure would be unconscionable. Candidates for office besides incumbents deserve to have the aggregate public data on the spending extremes posted in a form easily understood by taxpayer-voters.

I got a phone call from Matt Look ...

"In a world of compromise, I don't."

Twice, he called. Two consecutive evenings. Letting the phone ring twice, then a hang up. A strange call. Something of a bother.

Not knowing what I might help him with, this morning I called - 323-6626.

It is only a fair courtesy, isn't it, to return calls?

Well, it's NOT Matt. Yes and no.

It is a super-nuisance ROBO CALL.

A stinking @#%7^*& ROBO CALL.

Matt's the kind who'd do ROBO CALLS. Thinking it a keen idea.

And the kind who'd use FACEBOOK.


Brodkorb is suing, having been fired face-to-face, and there's a view of who he is even on the GOP side of things ---

A hypothetical:
Could one fire a county employee, several, by ROBO CALL?

By posting a dismissal notice on FACEBOOK? It might not help county staff morale, but do we care?

Monday, July 23, 2012

RAMSEY -- Like it or love it, thanks to the Governor's bonding bill, there is this.

Photos were taken Thursday, July 19. From street level or from the ramp. Click any thumbnail image to see the full size photo. Note that without the Governor's bonding bill there would have been remaining uncertainty over the train stop and it appeared Flaherty was disinclined to close without the train stop sewed up. Click any thumbnail image to see the full size photo.

This last one is looking east from the ramp top floor.

Friday, July 20, 2012


1- Coon Rapids and its City Manager sever ties, this link.

2- Darren Lazan reported as taking two bites at the bidding apple; this link.

Ditto, re reporting of Ramsey's City Attorney opining that the identical set of individuals meeting as council members and separately as HRA commissioners are to be regarded as lawfully separate to the extent that contracts reached between the HRA and Lazan's Landform firm re HRA projects in the Town Center do not bind the council in its awarding a contract to others.

Regarding Lazan's unusual conduct in standing at the public podium and arguing in behalf of his second bite at the bidding apple, Sakry reported:

The council voted 4-3 July 10 in favor of the contract to WSB for engineering, construction staking and record plans.

Councilmembers Colin McGlone and Jeff Wise as well as Mayor Bob Ramsey voted against the contract.

[...] During the June 26 discussion on the contracts, the council wrestled over whether or not the city was required to give the contract to Landform.

According to Landform President Darrin Lazan, the company’s COR contract with the city Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) requires the city to give his company these types of contracts.

The contract, which made Lazan the city’s COR management director, included several conditions for engineering, landscape and other projects in the COR from the city and from incoming development.

City Attorney Bill Goodrich said July 10 the contract is with the HRA and it does not obligate the council to award Landform city projects. It only applies to HRA projects.

Based on Goodrich’s opinion, staff recommended WSB’s not-to-exceed bid.

I watched the QCTV streaming video of the July 10 thing, and the reporting conforms with my memory of what I saw and heard. Sakry further reported:

“I know some (on the council that) would like to vote (Lazan) into this deal, but it has to go through the proper channels,” Councilmember David Elvig said.

Lazan was able to look at the other contract and change his numbers to be slightly lower than WSB, he said.

I cannot say for certain whether Sakry's quote was verbatim from the streaming video or was attained by interview, but Elvig's characterization seems spot on to what I viewed and is what I mean by taking a second bite at the bidding apple.

My understanding of things is that such procedures as seen in that braodcast are unusual, where competitive bid juggling after the submission deadline is countenanced at all as a practice. I do not think it is a frequent or proper thing.

The appearance of the video was that the mayor crossed from presiding at the meeting to becoming an insistent advocate for Lazan's interests to the point where another council member had to call the question.

3- I went to Ramsey's mayor's informal open session at city hall last night, and the mayor indicated he first learned of Emily McGlone's employment from the City Attorney informing council of one member's spouse working for Flaherty interests. He said McGlone subsequently, informally and not of record at any meeting, indicated it was Emily, his wife, involved in that employment. The mayor mumbled something about "other applicants" but never said he had any evidence any other persons were considered for the job. He was vague. McGlone later arrived and at one point I asked if he wanted to say anything about Flaherty and Emily. His reply was that he had been advised by a PRIVATE (he emphasized that word) attorney that the employment was between two private parties and he did not have to say anything about it. I asked if that meant he was declining to say anything to me, and he replied that was so. He never invoked or mentioned the Fifth Amendment. There was no reference to it in the conversation.

From that I infer that not only is McGlone held to know the law governing his conduct and his wife's, but he is in the position of having hired professional consultation so that knowing the law is more than a presumption applied only to the McGlones, but to them, in consultation with a lawyer.

That the McGlones have an attorney and rely upon that attorney for advice and not upon the City Attorney is my best understanding, which is how things should be because the City Attorney's full fiduciary duty is owed the city in investigating conflict of interest situations with due diligence and then if called upon to opine on whether the city in anything it has done or controls is at fault, and that the City Attorney does not advise any individual official in an attorney-client capacity (especially where serving two masters might itself be a conflict of interest). My best guess is there never was any attorney-client relation established between the City Attorney and the McGlones. Not at any point in time. But that has not been revealed in any public way, one way or the other, or lack of clarity as to facts on the record and in minutes, is how things seem to the best of my knowledge.

Whether or not city attorney due diligence has been evidenced, and due regard for applicable law, are unknown to me. I do not know how extensively Goodrich acted to learn relevant facts, nor what his deliberations were before speaking to the council in the manner the mayor described, nor whether the mayor with passage of time might have misrecollected things. He did not put a time frame on when this presentation to the council was recalled to have happened. Hence, I do not know at what point in time Goodrich spoke to council. I do not know but have cause to believe that when Goodrich spoke to council the McGlone-Flaherty employment was in place, not contemplated and pending approval of the city attorney or any other city official(s). I.e., the McGlone-Flaherty employment was offered and accepted before any of McGlone's colleagues on council had any notice from the McGlones, nor any actual inkling such things were afoot.

My understanding is that Colin McGlone gave no prior notice in writing of the contemplation of an employment before the job was taken, nor after. Zippo. I have not seen any minutes evidencing any notice, nor has anyone informed me or any prior oral notice from McGlone to any other city official. It appears others on council were hung out to dry, on notice, and that the employment was a fiat acompliti at the time oral notice was given without any entry of same in the minutes. By email I shall seek confirmation or correction of these understandings.

My understanding is to this very day Colin McGlone has never put anything in writing and into city public records concerning one single thing about the Flaherty-McGlone employment.


4- Before others arrived the mayor said he thought "Chinagate" would be an election issue, that was his term, and in expanding on the comment reaching beyond possibly James Norman and his and the city severing ties in the past, the mayor seemed focused upon a claim previously asserted against the city related to expenses incurred in sister city travel and activity, which the city settled.

5- Please vote in the sidebar poll, if you have not already.

More Coon Rapids news; here and here. Here, with it unclear to me if Coon Rapids ever elected to fill the vacancy or not. Anoka re-up on its city manager and now half way through the renewal term, here.

_________FURTHER UPDATE__________
With the City's contractual relationship with Flaherty lasting years and not being over and finalized by full performance soon. Indeed, Flaherty still will be having an obligation to pay back millions of dollars to the City, over years of time, into the future while McGlone continues to chair Ramsey's HRA where Flaherty might ask for forebearance or concessions at any point. The McGlone chairmanship of Ramsey's HRA shall last indefinitely, unless terminated in January 2013 via election outcome in Ward 2. But it could last years longer.

I contend McGlone's continued intransigence to own up of record to details of what the Flaherty-Emily McGlone employment entails, its genesis details and ongoing status, is improper, and clearly so from governing law from 1987 reinforced per 2008, and onward.

How the McGlones meet their legal duties is for them and their attorney to discuss, and then the McGlones make decisions to act to finally disclose or to extend their stonewalling.

Perhaps the time for a reasonable disclosure has passed so that putting a writing into HRA minutes now would be a tardy locking of the barn door.

I could make a specific argument of law now, but I will not. I think the point for now is that any sentient, reasonable and reasonably sophisticated person would disclose conflict of interest detail up front and thoroughly, in writing, in this kind of situation; in order to avoid undue embarrassment to a city and a city's other council-HRA members; and that this should be so regardless of any specific term of law one way or the other. It is the notion of having a moral compass.

Giving immediate notice at the start of employment discussions is simply the common sense decent thing to have done, some time ago before any binding offer and acceptance of an employment arrangement between Flaherty and the McGlones had been negotiated and finalized by signing final paperwork and Emily reporting to the Flaherty trailer for work. The very start of any discussion of Emily McGlone's possible employment is whan disclosure was due.

Children know right from wrong.

The appearance of things is that the McGlones would have maintained absolute stealth and silence, willfully so, had not some event of discovery intervened. It is possible one McGlone or the other approached city officials, or an official, and instigated some kind of disclosure or notice of some kind, taking the initiative that way but declining to go public. However it is the other likelihood that is more troublesome, i.e., that something smoked out the situation and there were then and only then delinquent and reluctant responses to questions, but not a voluntary disclosure in absence of questioning. The McGlones refuse to say which way things happened.

Express and adeauate notice or lack of it is a very, very, very important thing in situations such as the McGlone-Flaherty-Cronk-Landform-HRA tangle. 

Millions of city dollars are at risk, about a hundred or so free ramp parking spaces were given Flaherty free of charge with the ramp expansion costing around a million or so, and Flaherty's obligation to pay SAC and WAC charges upon issuance of an occupancy permit or sooner was compromised; (Flaherty being required to pay no such charges - none whatsoever). Then Emily gets a job.

While I have asked, nobody has seen fit to point any specific set of minutes out to me saying, "See, there, it was disclosed." I ask it again via this post. Jerrry McGuire style ---- Show me the record.

The written public record as best as I understand things is bare, without any hint of disclosure present. If that belief is wrong ---- SHOW ME THE RECORD.

Now the legal argument. Minn. Stat. Ch. 469 governs city HRA conduct in charter or statutory cities. In the original 1987 enactment all HRA units including those of cities are subject to MS. Sect. 469.009, re Conflicts of Interest, and written disclosure is mandated in no uncertain terms, of record, with a one week window allowed. Moreover, regarding the same chapter's EDA requirements, in 2008 language parallel to MS Sect 471.87 was stricken by the legislature to word Sect. 469.098 in parallel to Sect. 469.009 language; i.e. the legislature reapproved the specific language by extending it in place of other language to fit EDA units as well as HRA units. Nothing could be clearer.

This is not a "gotcha" thing but it is the legislature's twice since 1987 showing a good sense of common sense. With that express law in place I find it hard to envision any competent attorney advising ones in the McGlone family situation to stonewall.

However, it is what the McGlone man claimed, when asked.

"Relying on PRIVATE counsel," he would not say a thing about what's up. No curative intent expressed, none whatsoever.

Again, the thing is to not get bogged down in legalities and detail, but to see the forest rather than obsessing over any individual trees. The law conforms to ordinary common sense; the notion that one's fellow HRA members should not be kept intentionally in the dark while conflicting interests are pursued is instinctual. The law sensibly follows that, without ambiguity or room to split hairs. Complications do NOT exist. It is very simple. SHOW ME A RECORD.

Last, an interested person should do a word/phrase search of Sect. 469.009 text for the phrase "gross misdemeanor." So, given clear law; what will our Ramsey officials do?

Push them.

Things seem clear as a conflict diamond, so what's next? Ask the mayor, city attorney, and city administrator.

We watch. We vote.

It's time for the bullshit to stop. Or am I wrong in any single detail? If so, please tell me.

__________FURTHER UPDATE__________
Another interesting search of Sect. 469.009 is for the phrase "no later than one week." The legislature did not want to see things dragged out, or put under a hat for months on end.

While nobody has requested that I alter or retract anything I wrote, I have had a few days to reconsider, and I truly am in no position to evaluate the McGlone family's "moral compass," since I do not know them or their history, and I am focused on a single situation that may not reflect their conduct over their lifetimes.

In saying it is a question of right or wrong, the focus is upon a single situation, and the subjectivity inherent in our making judgments of right and wrong is understood. The McGlones, from the one time I spoke to Emily McGlone, do not believe they have done anything wrong. I see things differently.

We judge politicians, primarily if not always, by their judgment. My own moral compass, a subjective thing, points against the employment situation, but that is a judgment and basically I am questioning the soundness of the judgment of the McGlones, in doing what was done.

I credit Colin McGlone's ideas of using City Hall space for the license center, I believe that idea originated with him. In any event I know he supported and advocated that step.

Colin McGlone's explanation of including a "lake" in Town Center by moving fill from one part of the land to other parts seems to be reducing the cost of what's being done, and as long as DNR has no objections to the land's profile being changed, the saving is good.

While saying that in pushing aggressively now with the Town Center stuff instead of showing patience, a partial degree of savings has nonetheless been attained in the course of what I see as a wholly wasteful course of action, I focus upon the folly of pushing aggressively now, at great expense and against the will of the market, which again is me questioning the council majority's judgment.

I do not like the decision, the judgment, to have Emily McGlone take employment in a situation that, but for the consistent 4-3 course of voting of Colin McGlone, would not have been available. I do not like the silence over it when it seems there was a duty to speak, to disclose things, from the very outset of that employment being contemplated. I see this as an opportunity for a new council to amend the city's charter to impose stern advanced written and public disclosure measures concerning conflicts of interest, particularly where there has been the pattern of nondisclosure and a subsequent silence over material details.

I have been told by the mayor and McGlone that neither knew Darren Lazan before Landform gained its contract with the city and I have no reason to doubt that. However, I have read the Matt Look statement in minutes about Senator Jungbauer's then being affiliated with the firm, as a factor in his mind favoring that firm. My understanding is that the Landform-Jungbauer affilaition has been severed. Lazan has said so. I believe both McGlone and the mayor each knew Jungbauer well, at all relevant times, and that Look was not alone in weighing the Jungbauer position as if it should be a material factor in their voting to choose Landform.

I disagree with the price paid for the distressed Town Center land as extremely beyond its worth, particularly when city liens and assessment rights are considered a factor in the price paid, beyond the cash paid over to the foreclosing banks. I disagree with the judgment there, and with the judgment to enter into the Flaherty contract, with its terms being as they were - with subside via SAC and WAC charges being compromised, with the city banking a part of Flaherty's risk, and with the free parking being given away. Even absent that string of subsidy, I think the Flaherty rental by the rails property will prove a mistake, long-term.

Ultimately, it comes down to judgments that elected officials have the power to make. If we do not like the judgment shown, the ballot box exists for expressing that. If McGlone is reelected, it will be by a majority of those voting in Ward 2 preferring that, and if that happens we live with the electorate's decision making whether we believe them sound or not.

I dislike the ward system in a town as small as Ramsey is. It is pretentious, and I favor the previous system where everybody had a chance to vote for or against each incumbent seeking reelection. I understand arguments can be made that having more "rural" wards can balance population changes to dense housing near the highway and that things of interest to dense housing advocates and those living shared-wall, may diverge from those in older parts of residential Ramsey. The current 4-3 vote splits have proven things can be as contentious as when Ramsey had 3-2 contentious vote splits in the past, (as with earlier comp plan submission disagreements). And going from a five member council to a seven member body seems to lengthen meetings instead of having any streamlining virtue.

One good I would hope to see would be seeing the Charter revised to remove the near impossibility of recall of an elected Ramsey official. Recall should be available automatically once a petition threshold has been reached, and a majority of those then voting should unconditionally be sufficient to remove an official.

Anything else is insufficient, in my view of what a charter should provide citizens.

The other Charter reform I would hope to see is, as noted, a tight requirement of written advance disclosure whenever a conflict of interest situation arises. To look at the criminal law of the State, and to say a line of conduct is not a crime so it is okay, to me is an affront to what I believe should be the aims and goals of good government. Citizens, in my view, are entitled to expect more than attention to the question of whether a crime happened or not, in the course of the McGlone employment coming into being, or in earlier conflict of interest situations.

The McGlone employment situation has presented a concrete instance where we can all hone our opinions, and hopefully positive change can happen.

Again, nobody requested that I alter or retract or explain a thing. I reflected on what I had written and concluded I should add this final wrap-up statement about the McGlone employment. It is the last thing I intend to write of it, absent some newsworthy change in events.

I will, of course, be leaving the sidebar poll open until noon of Aug. 14, the date of the primary election, and I urge everyone to vote.

And I openly urge anyone having a dispute with anything I may in the future write to make a timely objection in writing stating a rationale in requesting a retraction or qualifying explanation. I am not at all closed minded to civil disagreement, i.e., disagreement on point and not a mere pejorative and conclusory insult, and my noting the open channel of communication again serves to emphasize that I cannot read minds and know if somebody has information or explanations or beliefs that I should take into consideration. After speaking once to Emily McGlone, at length, before writing of the employment nobody has taken the care or time to challenge my writing or opinions, or to request I reconsider or retract a thing. That door is always open.

FINAL COMMENT - During the term of those running for reelection in Ramsey now, if I recall correctly, the pay was raised by instituting a separate pay for HRA meetings/membership. I do not know whether EDA is a compensated authority. It would have seemed more in line with most boards and commissions of the City to have not compensated HRA, but to have raised the council stipend accordingly, while noting that participation in the HRA demanded more time. I have consistently believed and argued that the honorarium paid for service on council is out of line with the work demands, and if the several businesses the McGlones have were not providing healthcare coverage and Ms. McGlone had that as a factor in mind as well as resume building and a paycheck in taking an offer from Flaherty people; then it argues for council members not otherwise covered to have healthcare needs met through membership in the city's covered pool.

Service on council is not a full time job, despite the hours it takes; but my belief is that as long as we have employer paid coverage vs. single payer or other arrangements, part-time help should be covered. So, others may carp, but coverage and the amount paid vs time demanded by the job to me suggest council members are decidedly underpaid.

Anyone running for office makes a sacrifice in time and cost of signs, mailings and such. Generally speaking, motivation to serve on Ramsey's council is not money driven. That said, it is worth noting that Look, one of the biggest boosters of buying the distressed Town Center project and pushing against the market at great cost quit mid-way through a single term on council to chase a substantial paycheck and other duties on the county board. I think it incumbent on those on council to finish a term, health and residency permitting, and to not let ambition intervene. That does not mean someone like Tossey or Backous half-way through a term should not take a shot at being mayor if so inclined, but to hop from one political body to another is different from seeking a different responsibility but staying in the jurisdiction and not jumping ship.

I was unsure of who called the question on the contract award carryover session. It was Jason Tossey. It appeared to be a decision whose time had come. The discussion had exhausted itself by then, if not before then.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Flaherty and Collins Indiana adventures. It's too ugly, and without shops and restaurants.

Leading part of IBJ reporting,

Deja vu? Click to read. This link.

Indiana officials got that right. Demanding shops and restaurants IS good policy. We should be so lucky. But --- they accepted a token fig leaf. With compromise, we are experienced.

Read the entire item. The link is in the image capton.

Credit where credit is due. In Indiana, an act of good citizenship by Flaherty people, this link.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Color this picture and win a prize.

Actually, there is no prize. But if you are a child, or have children, you can download or print the postcard size full image, and color away. You can do an e-version in Microsoft Paint or some other app, and email your result to the address on the sidebar.

Submissions from city employees or Landform-Flaherty folks are particularly welcome. Creative emailed versions may be published in a subsequent Crabgrass post. Enjoy.

More Flaherty - McGlone - Cronk stuff. Likely one post short of wrapping up the subject. UPDATED

The City, as an entity, is not at fault in that it cannot control decisions outside of city activity which are made by individual council members, and outsiders - except there is fault insofar as it, by its charter and ordinances, has not considered the overdue step of formulating a tighter conflict of interest policy and procedure set to forestall the sort of thing that happened. The City is not without precedent. The City does not have to cling to the lowest possible denominator of ethics in setting its standards and specifications for governing.

The City can improve that way.

The notion of a government of laws and not men, (persons being the PC term now), is old and honored in the breach too often. I think we have seen that in the insinuation of an ongoing sweet deal for Landform with Matt Look at the outset having been noted in minutes as saying something to the effect that Senator Jungbauer is affiliated with this firm and if we hire them he might be able to get us a grant others do not even know exists. That's not a quote from minutes, but it captures the gist.

There has been an ongoing clear three-member bloc on council, sitting in a row, mayor and two seats to his right. In the McGlone situation they seemingly see no evil, hear no evil, and speak none. There is an appearance of their cooking up ideas among themselves, possibly with a touch of county board involvement, like an assault against the city manager's job in favor of the then assistant city manager who at the time was working most closely with Landform. There is a personnel committee and it exists for a reason, with no putsch outside of it needed or desirable.

There is a worry of some turning a blind eye to the McGlone employment. To the questions of how it came about, was it involving prior understandings that predated final approval and groundbreaking of the Flaherty adventure, and was there openness in recruiting a project clerk, (that being a valid and needed job function for the construction project so that the question is not of a "make work" sweetheart job, but one of whether there was earmarking of it for one person, others not needing to apply, and whether the pay exceeds any reasonable prevailing wage for the job).

Good luck world, on extracting the evidence from the persons who cooked up the idea and put it in place. The names McGlone and Cronk and Flaherty come to mind as where to ask, and from whom to expect cogent and honest answers vs. a stonewall, if expecting the best out of people.

The decision pattern to so heavily subsidize the Flaherty adventure by consistent repeated 4-3 votes is germane. It is evidence already known to the public.

Regarding the building of the Flaherty rental adventure -- It's been done to where there is no pulling back on the string. Like it or love it. Ground is not only broken but the building of that rental thing is now past the point of no return, however the deal stands, however people in the community may like or dislike things.

Randy Backous on council has liked the idea itself all along, I have disliked it the more I learned, i.e., Backous and I most fundamentally differ on whether the building of it is a good or bad thing for Ramsey. However, Backous and I seem on the same thought page with regard to his minority voting and questioning of decision making about the unique multi-million dollar subsidy risk that the city has assumed by a 4-3 margin with the HRA chairman, Colin McGlone, being repeatedly in the bloc of four in the voting and now with a spouse working for a paycheck from Flaherty people.

There is one published Minnesota case I would urge all to read. It is not involving a city, nor a legislative or quasi-legislative activity of an administrative agency. It can be argued as distinguishable because quasi-judicial agency decision making was at issue, yet I believe drawing any such distinction without any real difference is spurious reasoning, and would avoid seeing the clear and universally applicable thrust of the case. It appears from reading the case that the newspapers picked up the thing and ran with it as a preliminary context to official review of decision making; i.e., that there already existed a strong community reaction at the point judicial appellate review happened.

In re Petition of Northern States Power, 414 N.W.2d 383 (Minn. 1987), is online, here, where the link is set to highlight the phrase "appearance of impropriety" in the case - that phrase being the one frequently applied to situations such as McGlone-Flaherty-Cronk-Landform, etc., not as a finding it is so, we can have our opinions, but as a term to always keep in mind in asking questions and in formulating opinions and suggesting actions. The appearance of things, the smell test as some may call it, IS important, determinative in fact, when private facts are denied public disclosure and all we have is the presumption that if evidence is deliberately withheld the evidence would be unfavorable to those having the evidence within their exclusive custody and control, and choosing not to reveal it.

The case is actually easy to read, the highlighting of "appearance of impropriety" is helpful, and since Crabgrass readers are urged to read the case there is little point to extensive quoting. However, for those choosing to not read the case there is this - all that I will be quoting:

It would be difficult to deny that Adam's participation in the decision could likely affect his direct or indirect financial interest in the utility by which he would soon be employed. The legislature has addressed the action necessary once a conflict arises [for this situation, but not for town board decision making where the town itself could adopt for itself such a measure]. A written statement disclosing and identifying the existing or potential conflict must be filed and one must remove oneself from participation in the pending proceeding. Adams ignored the requisite procedure, apparently unilaterally decided that no conflict existed and continued his active participation in the decisional process.

We are equally persuaded that these events could similarly be characterized as a proscribed ex parte communication. While both Adams and representatives of NSP affied [swore by affidavit] that at no time during employment negotiations did the subject of the pending rate decision arise and Adams himself contends that the Commission's deliberations had been finalized prior to the actual employment offer, these statements seem to us to avoid the focal question and instead reflect a disregard of the spirit if not the letter of the controlling legislation and regulations [again, procedures a town like Ramsey could embrace]. We disagree with the offered interpretation that the activities could properly be characterized as an error in judgment.

In our view, Adams not only should have disclosed the nature and extent of his contacts immediately, he should have also disqualified himself from active participation and the evidence is compelling that continued participation was not only improper but disqualifying.

That failure to disclose and disqualify must be viewed as irrevocably tainting at least a portion of these proceedings. While the record contains no direct evidence that Adams unduly influenced the decision [whereas Ramsey has a parade of 4-3 decisions, McGlone in the majority in each], his mere presence creates the obvious appearance of impropriety and undermines the public confidence in the system. We are incredulous that these sophisticated governmental and utility officials could have assumed otherwise. We therefore hold that there is substantial evidentiary support for the findings of the Commission that the individuals [in the plural, on the hired side and on the hiring side] had a duty to disclose their association, that Adams had a substantial conflict of interest and that the proceedings were tainted as a result.

414 N.W.2d at 386-87, citations omitted, italics and bracketed text added. In that rate-setting situation the matter could be reheard or stricken. In Ramsey's case footings have been poured and materials and equipment brought to site with the thing beyond the point of no return. Yet within the quoted text is the seed of an idea for reform language that Chairman Niska and others on Ramsey's charter commission might consider along with Goodrich, to lead to an amendment making Ramsey a trail-blazer in tightening up on how cleanly and conflict free officials of the city should act in the future. For that purpose the text was worth full quoting.

In closing, as to what's next, an election is. If the McGlone employment is tolerable and inoffensive to a majority of those voting in Ward 2, we move on and expect little in the way of the City tightening up its conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety norms. It is a pity we have in place a ward system where the "referendum" on the McGlone conduct cannot be voted citywide.

There is the cliche of the four boxes of government. The soapbox, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box. As a start, soapbox = Developers are Crabgrass. Ballot box = Aug 14, and then November when we vote for president too and many more turn out than for primaries. The ballot box result that would please me would be to see Kuzma and Sibelski going on in Ward 2 after Aug 14 to the November election, as that would be viewable as a sound citizen repudiation of what's happened. The jury box is too slow and too costly for an individual citizen (or a soapboxer) to pursue; on whether the Public Data Act's Sect. 13.05, subd 11, compels Landform insiders to come clean on the facts they now hold. A future council might or might not pursue using that statute for information, but that is a pure hypothetical for now.

To the extent Landform insiders, Cronk and Lazan, may stonewall, what's the actual remedy, regardless of what the statute says? The cartridge box is inapplicable, so the only thing really available is that loveable old ballot box. So use it.

Digressing a bit while the ballot box is in attention, I have no idea how County Board elections will turn out. My hope is the Jungbauer effort for the seat Westerberg now holds will fail, regardless of who may prevail there, it being a district where I do not vote; and I find Dennis Berg's endorsement for the seat where I have a vote interesting in its terminology re, "leadership, conflict resolution and management skills." It seems Berg chose his words quite carefully and with an aim seemingly on target.

Besides general statutes; Minn. Stat. Sects. 471.87 and and 471.895 (incorporating by reference the definition of "gift" in MS Sect 10A.071); there is a case under MS Sect 412.311, analogous to Petition of Northern State Power; i.e., Singewald v. Minneapolis Gas Company, 142 NW 2d 739, 740 (Minn. 1966),

The findings of fact as formulated do not support the trial court's conclusion that the [Burnsville] ordinance is valid. This is so because in our opinion the prohibition of § 412.311 (in contrast to that set out in § 471.87 which forbids a "personal financial interest" by public officers in situations such as this) was intended to bar participation in council action by one directly or indirectly interested in the contemplated contract, regardless of his good faith and notwithstanding the fairness or reasonableness of the agreement involved.

No Minnesota decision has dealt specifically with the question whether a councilman having the relationship to a party contracting with the village disclosed by the record here is directly or indirectly interested in the contract within the meaning of § 412.311. There is an apparent conflict in the decisions of other appellate courts on this question. We agree with the line of authorities of which Griggs v. Borough of Princeton, 33 N.J. 207, 162 A.2d 862, is illustrative. There it was said that the disqualification to vote should be applied even though the councilman involved be "motivated by a high sense of responsibility for community affairs." 33 N.J. 221, 162 A.2d 870.

We do not subscribe to the principle that council action should be vitiated in situations such as this if the vote of the councilman directly or indirectly interested in the contract would not be determinative of the action taken.

That last language, if the conflicted party in question would have stood aside or abstained, would the matter have passed or failed in a tie or by a majority against is held determinative.

What is apparent is that numerous statutory provisions exist; and I am unaware of any definitive or even helpful conflict of interest case under Minnesota HRA law; MS. Ch. 469.

As in Singewald, judging our McGlone-Flaherty-Landform-HRA employment mess may be a question of first impression. For those who may have missed it, a City Attorney opinion of Goodrich in a recent meeting is that the distinction between HRA acting and the City through its council acting must be drawn despite the identical people sitting on each body, changing the blue hat for the orange one, so to speak.

Caution should exist over opinions from a body such as the LMC, which lobbies extensively, and which might have an opinion influenced by what they'd like a standard of conduct to be rather than advocating the best reasonable reading of a governing statute if that reading contradicts a goal or aim of the organization.

In Minnesota, per MS Sect. 645.26, subd. 1, the specific HRA statute should be construed in determining what the legislature specified and intended to see followed.

Last, Emily McGlone the one time I talked to her stated "we checked it with the lawyers before I accepted the job" but would not enlarge on that beyond indicating that Goodrich may have held an LMC opinion of some kind which she claimed to believe sanitized her taking the job after Colin's voting pattern favoring massive Flaherty subsidy. I cannot see how anyone would believe that situation was a proper course of government and outside conduct, one free of any "appearance of impropriety." If it ever went before a judge and was blessed that way I would be flabbergasted. As reader Ryan noted, beyond legalistic hair splitting, there is the court of public opinion, especially in an election year. A public wanting tighter standards of conduct in such situations, one not wanting to ever see a repeat, needs to say so at the ballot box or things in Ramsey are unlikely to change.