Legal battles plague Jordan neighborhood

Former director Jerry Moore was accused of mismanaging JACC funds.

Jerry Moore was contracted to replace the windows in this north Minneapolis house. The fraudulent deal was used in a lawsuit against a man named Larry Maxwell.

Ashley Goetz

Jerry Moore was contracted to replace the windows in this north Minneapolis house. The fraudulent deal was used in a lawsuit against a man named Larry Maxwell.

EditorâÄôs note: This is the second in a two-part series chronicling political issues in north Minneapolis. The third paragraph under the first subhead contains derogatory terms taken from a court document. Residents of the Jordan neighborhood in north Minneapolis know hardships. So far in 2009, the neighborhood has had the highest rates of robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, arson and home foreclosures citywide, according to city statistics. Through May, there were 77 home foreclosures in the Jordan neighborhood, which harbors around 2,500 homes. This is 26 more foreclosures than the nearby Folwell neighborhood, which came closest in foreclosed homes. In the last few years, 5th Ward Councilman Don Samuels and the citizen-elected, non-profit Jordan Area Community Council have been in a tug-of-war battle over the way north Minneapolis should be run. JACC uses state-funded Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds to create and propose programs to stop problems plaguing the neighborhood. However, the city council has the final say in almost every issue because JACC has no legislative power. Lawsuits, arguments and reckless mismanagement of funds have cast doubt on the competence and size of role JACC plays in the neighborhood.

Animosity brews

In October 2005, DFL candidate Don Samuels became city councilman over Green Party candidate Natalie Johnson Lee. Former JACC executive director Jerry Moore was Johnson LeeâÄôs campaign manager prior to his involvement in the council. The campaigns got nasty. Booker Hodges , now president of NAACP Minneapolis, whose wife worked on Johnson LeeâÄôs campaign, drew controversy over comments made on a cable access show he hosted with fellow Johnson Lee supporter Al Flowers, who is running for mayor of Minneapolis in November. While on the show, Hodges likened Samuels to a “house Negro,” according to court documents . Hodges said it was time to, âÄúkill the house niggas,âÄù which Samuels took as a personal threat. Flowers and Hodges were consequently suspended from the Minneapolis Television Network , but a First Amendment lawsuit against Samuels, litigated by attorney Jill Clark, found the suspension unconstitutional, court records show. In November 2005, Jerry Moore was elected to the JACC board of directors, and subsequently named executive director. Ben Myers , who has represented Moore as an attorney, was appointed chair during that time. Myers did not return requests for interview and Moore declined to comment for the story on advice from his attorney Jill Clark.

JACC dysfunction

During MooreâÄôs tenure as executive director, there were allegations of mismanagement of JACC funds. Financial records show that Moore neglected payments, failed to pay property taxes at a JACC-owned house and routinely exceeded his budgeted $50-per-month cell phone allowance. Moore had previously refused to disclose financial documents and information, according to court documents. JACC hired a financial forensic investigator to review the financial records, JACC Chairman Michael Browne said . Moore was named in a February 2008 lawsuit involving swindler Larry Maxwell , who was charged with 18 counts of mortgage fraud. The court used MaxwellâÄôs $5,000 consulting deal with Moore as evidence to convict Maxwell, according to a court complaint. Maxwell claimed to use Moore as a contractor to replace windows in a foreclosed house at 1564 Hillside Ave . âÄúIf you look at 1564 Hillside, you can see that there were no new windows installed,âÄù Browne said. No matter what the investigation reveals, the city of Minneapolis will not be pursuing legal action against Moore, Samuels said. âÄúThe city is squeamish about taking on citizens,âÄù Samuels said, âÄúespecially when youâÄôve got issues of race and class and first amendment rights.âÄù The city and Samuels are defendants in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Myers, Moore and other board members displaced in elections held January 12. In the elections, six new members were voted into the open board positions. On January 14, the new board replaced Moore and three other officers with Browne, P.J. Hubbard, Robert Hodson and Anne McCandles. Moore was later fired for misconduct. According to a police report, he slapped, pushed and punched three fellow board members after the elections. He was never charged. In February, the displaced board members filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) against this âÄúnew majority,âÄù which claimed the election was a conspiracy, according to court records. The suit looks to restore the old leadership to the board. Samuels, the city of Minneapolis, Ward 4 councilmember Barbara Johnson and 4th Precinct Police Department Inspector Michael Martin are listed as defendants in the suit as well. Judge Charles Porter said in court documents that the court was unlikely to rule in the âÄúold majorityâÄôsâÄù favor. âÄúThe overall balance of harms favors denying a TRO,âÄù Porter wrote, âÄúbecause JACC is apparently able to function in the interim while this case progresses toward a final resolution.âÄù Porter struck down the TRO, but the displaced members filed another suit seeking a permanent restraining order. A decision on that suit is expected within the week.

The Jordan neighborhood

Despite the disparaging crime and foreclosure statistics, Samuels said the neighborhood is steadily improving, because the city is paying much closer attention to the plight of north Minneapolis. âÄúWe have virtually a third of the cityâÄôs police force for 17 percent of the city,âÄù Samuels said. âÄúThe city council gave $1 million worth of surveillance cameras to the area as well.âÄù Since the installation of these cameras, violent crime decreased 63 percent in those areas, Samuels said. In 2006, Samuels launched a campaign to revoke licenses of stores known to harbor drug traffic and violence in north Minneapolis, which was received well by the media and the public. Moore and Myers fought a public battle with Samuels in 2008 over the future of the Big Stop convenience store located at the corner of 26th and Knox avenues North, which was closed in 2006. The store had been a haven for drug traffic and violence, including a murder in 2004. As part of his fight on similar âÄúinconvenience stores,âÄù Samuels successfully fought to close the store through his position as chair of the city’s public safety and regulatory services committee. After the city revoked the storeâÄôs license and purchased the property for $170,000, police calls to the area dropped almost 100 percent. Moore and Myers, at the time still active in JACC, proposed through the media that instead of demolishing the building that the city use the site for businesses. The store was demolished in May 2008.

Other suits

Al Flowers has recently filed assault charges against Samuels, claiming Samuels stepped on his feet and later hit him with his elbow during a JACC press conference. âÄúI was the one who was pushed down,âÄù Samuels said. âÄúThe audacity of people to take the offensive as a strategy to control the outcome of even the most clearly unjust situation is amazing.âÄù Flowers is seeking at least $50,000, according to the complaint. He is also seeking an injunction to prevent Samuels from allegedly interfering with his First Amendment rights. Former board member Ben Myers is also involved in a defamation of character lawsuit against several other board members. âÄú[Myers and Moore] felt like since they have a track record or success it seems to be logical or, in other peopleâÄôs eyes, reasonable,âÄù Samuels said. âÄúThey were able to not disclose financial records for a couple years âÄî they were audacious in controlling the board when there were very strong incompetence concerns expressed by the community and other board members.âÄù