consultants are sandburs

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

RAMSEY - Reader help requested. Who was on the city council when that Legacy Christian Academy boondoggle was put into play instigated?

Tonight's council worksession was basically a non-event; except at the end after agenda matters, staff and council input, Jason Tossey mentioned a will on his part to try to unravel what was done per that land dealing situation; a matter of responsibility and culpability for decisions influenced and/or made.

Accountability for some of the Landform-Flaherty stuff in terms of voting out some on council has happened; but what about that Legacy ploy?

Accountability seems due and owing for that morass. Overdue perhaps.

I suggested to Jason that it was on his watch so he should know things already.

He denied that.

He said he and Backous then were council members elect when the purported Legacy relocation suggestion/promise was put into play.

Tossey said Bob Ramsey and Colin McGlone were on council, and Matt Look was a county board member elect. But his best recollection was that Look was on Ramsey's council when Legacy deeds were done city commitments and actions were initiated and/or became binding on Ramsey. He seemed fairly confident in that recollection. That would have been while Elvig was on council.

To discover the facts would involve review of paperwork, communication trails.

Landform involvement if any at the outset would be relevant. Much that would need sunshine.

My impression, when Look was on council he most surely seemed to be the mayor's sparkplug. Buying Town Center, all that.

Any reader with knowledge wishing to help tell the story and determine and assign accountability, is asked to email me. What do you know and how did you learn that? If not me, better even -- contact Tossey. His city email and phone number are on the City's website.

Here is hoping he detects something helpful to the city's fisc. Cause for a recovery.

UPDATE: Terms such as boondoggle, ploy, morass suggest a possibility of unfair dealings or motive. However, quantum meruit, does it apply? What about, quasi-contract, promissory estoppel, even if there was no wrong motive, no intent to mislead? Or was there an express contract, or some meeting of minds which was repudiated?

Readers should not read too much into the use of terms. Without sunshine on the entire thing, autopsied, subjected to forensic accounting, it would only be guesswork at motivations and intents. If it was not a ploy, but something involving pure good faith, what's the evidence of that? I have none, yet. But it surely is one very interesting question. And pertinent for advancing the aim of good and responsible representative government. Which is something of a goal we should all keep in mind. Constantly in mind. Accountability. Not just a word.

And in choosing words, morass is perhaps for now the most correct and descriptive term for the status of what Legacy Chritian Academy representations caused. One big mess of a morass.

Boondoggle too, SNAFU? Those seem neutral enough. "Ploy" might be too prematurely judgmental.

Unjust enrichment? That is a term of judicial art.

FURTHER UPDATE: My understanding is Mr. Look is an alum of that school.

Is Mr. Lazan? Reader help needed, again.

FURTHER UPDATE: Tossey said what he said but it was difficult to infer if there was any consensus of the five councilmembers present at the Worksession. My understanding is investigation of city records can yield some knowledge, but if litigation exists, there is compelled discovery which can reach beyond one's own files and records. Often discovery is helpful since some elements of a cause of action, particularly state of mind, need circumstantial evidence from which the trier of fact can make reasonable inferences, in order to determine whether, factually, a required element has been proven by a preponderance of evidence. I know Washington State has a pattern jury instruction, which Minnesota may have also, to the effect that circumstantial evidence is of equal weight to direct evidence, but that inference by the trier of fact is required. Something like that. Cases online indicate that in civil litigation rather than criminal prosecutions, the evidential standard term "preponderance of evidence" applies.

Discovery only comes into play if litigation is pending. Absent that, one's abilities to attain information are more limited. Whether any cause of action may succeed or fail is indeterminate absent trial. If all legal questions were determinable absent trial, we'd need no judges.

FURTHER UPDATE: My understanding is much MSA money was committed in a particular way in reliance on promises and/or representations of Legacy Christian Academy; money that would otherwise have been generally available to the community for other road-related purposes. One intersection, in particular, Armstrong at Hwy 116, was duded up spectacularly. At substantial cost. Detail of how that commitment of funds that way came about might be informative to our citizens in Ramsey and elsewhere. Puma Street got paved. For what possible reason? It seems questionable, to the point that the question should see council attention. From this present council.

Now, after all, Ramsey officials wrestle with how to fund needed steps to maintain town roads. We suffer that consequence.

FURTHER UPDATE: Would any reader knowing the ownership history of the Legacy Christian Academy real property west of Armsrong Blvd email me detail? If/when it was in tax base, that kind of thing, who shows up in chain of title, and what relations might that person/entity have to others, that kind of thing?

Present council diligence in finding answers to such pertinent questions is urged as something approaching a civic duty. If money was wrongly spent beggering other needed things now, is it actionable, might there be a recovery possible in court?

Exploring potential causes of action surely seems a duty officials should acknowledge and meet.

Minn. Stat. Ch. 554 related activity may be needed to goose some action. A bit of "public participation" cannot hurt. Public policy of our State favors that, hence the Chapter's existence.

Subdivision 1.Scope.
The definitions in this section apply to this chapter.

Subd. 2.Government.
"Government" includes a branch, department, agency, official, employee, agent, or other person with authority to act on behalf of the federal government, this state, or any political subdivision of this state, including municipalities and their boards, commissions, and departments, or other public authority.

[...] Subd. 6.Public participation."Public participation" means speech or lawful conduct that is genuinely aimed in whole or in part at procuring favorable government action.


History: 1994 c 566 s 1

[italics emphasis added]

It could even grow to be an election issue at some point.

Indeed, accountability should be an election issue, every election.

It is a fundamental part of how citizens can protect against inappropriate excesses, and deficiencies of judgment.

FURTHER UPDATE: Depending upon facts and reasonable inferences from facts, expenditures made in reliance on a promise/representation can be a measure of recoverable damages in litigation; as well as unjust enrichment being another measure. Surely doing nothing is an alternative to suing, and discretion rests with elected representatives to do the right thing in exercising discretion. There is necessarily much leeway. Also, the common linguistic meaning of "accountability" can exist and be judged by the public apart from any technical usages of wording in judicial matters. Finally, judicial seeking of a remedy, even if failing, may have a beneficial community effect in terms of airing issues and concerns, yet always, the basic truth of things is you will get no judicial remedy without seeking one.

FURTHER UPDATE: Judge Dehen was on council then; a judge-elect, but serving out a remainder of a Ward 3 term; if Tossey's understanding is correct as to when the improvements benefiting Legacy Christian Academy were instigated.
Not on Tossey's watch.


Ryan said...

I would wager that if the Flaherty financing worked out in a quieter fashion that Legacy would have received the financing they needed to build the new campus on the 144 acres purchased by the Hageman foundation. Semi disappointing that it worked out this way. The school would have brought more people to the area and I'll personally continue to say that a mid-high school would do more for our community than the random apartment building ever could.

As far as your digging for details to support putting the cart before the horse is concerned I think your digging is fruitless. You and I can infer that the road investment was made in lieu of some other "known" agreement. An agreement that I'll speculate was a handshake deal that Legacy would have no issues getting financed (I'll also fact I already have that the city was planning to play a role in that financing).

The bottom line Eric is this city entered the development business and by entering the development business they became land marketers. Potential investors want to see land owners making investments before they in turn invest. Say you're Target (Ramsey's unicorn), do you want to commit to something before knowing exactly what accesses will look like or do you want all the red tape hashed out before you sign the final deal? Now flip that coin, in normal circumstances developers are experts and they know what investments to make so they in turn maximize their returns. So tell me, why are you seemingly surprised that inexperienced individuals (when it comes to being a developer)are making poor investments?

The boondoggle and the answer to your fruitless search will forever bring you back to building a castle of a city building (that we have no funding source for no matter what anyone tells you) and purchasing the Towncenter land after the private market already told us that it wasn't feasible at the time. This city should be focusing on taking care of what it has, trying to find a way to build a needed school, and letting the private market drive investments in land.

eric zaetsch said...

Ryan - First, thank you for an extended and thoughtful answer.

Time will tell.

Of interest, you say a foundation bought the property. Does that mean it is in tax base, taxes paid current?

That is a concern.

Next, do you know how best I can find a tax parcel number?

Last, are you an alum of the school?

eric zaetsch said...

Ryan - As to your thought of a wager, private sector ventures should not expect subsidy. As you say, the town got put by decision making into a land speculator position, which is a private sector function and not a town duty such as keeping the streets in good order.

Sunk capital is never a good basis to continue digging the hole deeper and deeper. Ford had that figured in closing down the St. Paul truck plant.

Money for Ramsey's streets is in short supply. MSA money went into a grand intersection, Armstrong at Bunker. Full sunshine on that can help, not hinder the City. Parameters of that decision need to be revisited, if for no reason but to lessen likelihood of further such gambling on speculations while real town duty goes wanting. And if there is a potential for a recovery of damages the possibilities need full exploration. Finally, accountability to the public is an aspect to the public having confidence in future decision making by officials, wherever over time they end up and whatever ongoing decision making powers they may hold. Wisdom at the ballot box is served by knowing past detail. Fact-finding should happen.

Ryan said...

This is interesting..20-32-25-34-0004, also note the linked land on record. Taxes look to be paid and current.

No, I'm not an alum of the school.
Nor can I be linked to anyone in local politics. I have no personal or financial link to any of this, I'm just an interested citizen who finds the city of Ramsey's decision making "questionable" but I also admittedly find most government decision making to be "questionable". My question to you is can you link Matt Look to Michael Hagemann and thus back to Landform?

The term Sunk capital is difficult to define in this situation since financial return on investment isn't always the goal of any local government investment decision.

We already know why the grand intersection was built, because the private market demanded it before they made buying decisions. Of course Ramsey is so eager to sell off their investment that they jump as soon as anyone says the words "we'll buy if" and they do it before securing purchase agreements which to me is a "questionable" move.

eric zaetsch said...

Thank you again, Ryan. I do believe your comments are helpful to a public awareness and understanding of Ramsey government decisions and events.

eric zaetsch said...

Ryan - Re: Michael Hageman

Never met the person. Guessing, it is the person mentioned on line as in St. Michael, MN:

Thanks for the parcel ID, that in the county assessor records identifies Hageman Holdings, LLC.

Is the guy related to the football player's family? I have no way of knowing.

Ryan - Do you know chain of title to the Hageman LLC real estate parcels? As in who owned that stuff back in 2002-2003 when the Town Center frenzy was heating up; Nedegaard, Kuraks, Met Council, all that? It might be an interesting thing to know, but I am not about to buy a title search.

Interesting, this parcel


The valuation/taxation numbers seem skewed. Any idea why?

Ryan, the parcel tax ID you listed and the above parcek, it is all abstract title property, not Torrens. There was one parcel that Nedegaard bought that was converted back then to Torrens title.