State Rep. probes MPLS finance records

A state representative requested financial information from Minneapolis to follow up on citizens’ concerns.

by Taryn Wobbema

A broad request for public information had Ward 2 Council member Cam Gordon and his staff sifting through old records to find anything âÄî memos, documents, files, e-mails âÄî pertaining to expense reimbursements and city grants. The request, made under MinnesotaâÄôs Data Practice Act, was filed by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabasha and sent to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak âÄôs office at the beginning of September. It extends to the mayor, his chief of staff and all city council members. According to the request, Drazkowski wants to inspect records pertaining to expense reimbursements and Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) grants given to nonprofit organizations over the past five years and climate change grants referred to in the cityâÄôs 2009 budget. Drazkowski said he is following up on concerns voiced by citizens about the disbursement of city funds. He is fulfilling his role as an overseer of state funds, he said. âÄúWe have a responsibility when citizens come forward with concerns about how tax dollars are being used,âÄù he said. In a blog entry from Sept. 22, Gordon wrote that he was âÄúconcerned that [DrazkowskiâÄôs] request, written on House of Representatives stationary, is political opposition research to use against Mayor Rybak âĦâÄù Drazkowksi would not disclose any specifics on the allegations from Minnesotans or whether the accusers reside in Minneapolis. He also was unwilling to divulge the details of their concerns, but he pointed to a history of corrupt officials as giving the city a âÄútrack record for concern.âÄù âÄúThe allegations we have are about the handling of and the influence around the decisions of the distribution of public resources,âÄù Drazkowski said. City officials, including Gordon, said they are always willing to fulfill requests for public information as the Data Practices Act requires them to do. âÄúWe work to fill data requests in a timely manner, regardless of what the request is and as long as it is public,âÄù city spokesman Matt Liable said on behalf of the mayorâÄôs office. Gordon said it seemed like Drazkowski filed the request to dig for something he may or may not know exists. Gordon said the search could still be politically motivated since the representative has been vague about who has made accusations against the city. The mayorâÄôs office received the request early in September and the segments were sent to specific departments best equipped to gather the information. The first portion was sent out of the clerkâÄôs office Thursday. Gordon said his office began gathering reimbursement information but were contacted that the city clerkâÄôs office would take care of that portion once it was decided e-mails were not necessary. Steve Ristuben, assistant city clerk, said it took his office about 11 days to complete the request. The data had to be put into spreadsheets for each year and included all officials mentioned in the request. As a city department, CPED is involved in historic preservation, cultural aspects of the city and housing and business development, according to its Web site. Gordon said the city often uses nonprofits because itâÄôs âÄúeasier and more effectiveâÄù than establishing a separate government agency. In GordonâÄôs blog, he detailed the cityâÄôs success with climate change grants that have âÄúmobilized Minneapolis residents to decrease both their expenses and their carbon emissions through actions like installing compact fluorescent light bulbs.âÄù âÄúThis shouldnâÄôt be controversial,âÄù he wrote.