Over the years this columnist has written several columns regarding the poor management at the Council on Black Minnesotans (CBM) relevant to their audits, which, when compared to the other councils of color, are appalling. I give you the following evidence: Go to this web page — www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/fad/fadalpha.htm — and look at all other councils of color’s audits. Other minority councils’ audits are pretty clean compared to the CBM audits.
Recently, an investigation was conducted and concluded regarding CBM Executive Director Lester Collins. Mr. Collins asserted his rights to having the meeting open to the public where the investigation’s findings would be discussed.
The investigation was conducted by an outsider with the blessing of a member of the governor’s office and the state administrator. Hold up, wait a minute, I thought this was to have been done during Pawlenty’s term. The DFL conducted an investigation of Mr. Collins. Give me a minute to pull myself back together.
I’m cool. Let me stop playing around, because you are too curious. This outside organization (Soldo Consulting) was paid to conduct an investigation that led to findings against Mr. Collins described as misconduct and violation of the code of ethics.
What is important is not so much the specific acts involved (food purchases and personal use of a car that was to be used for CBM business only) but rather the embarrassment and mire it leaves on the CBM and Blacks in Minnesota if the current board fails to act with accountability and integrity. The CBM, having little respect already, will lose what little respect the newest board members have to build on.
Finding: In fiscal year 2011, Executive Director Collins improperly authorized the expenditure of council funds and did not comply with the State’s special expense policy. Furthermore, the findings state that Mr. Collins acted despite repeated and clear direction from the Department of Administration and the Office of the Legislative Auditor. If so, is this the way you want the highest Black agency in Minnesota to represent Black people?
Finding: The record indicates that in fiscal year 2011, Mr. Collins authorized the expenditures of council funds for rental car expenses for his personal use. Mr. Collins did not pay that money back (as of the date of the investigation meeting) and acted despite the 2001 and 2008 audit findings citing improper and undocumented use of State cars and rental cars for personal use and his assurance that the CBM would comply with State policy in the future.
These are not isolated incidents. This behavior is evident in previous audits, warnings, and assurances from Mr. Collins that such wrongful behavior would not continue. So, as Black people, are we supposed to just overlook this behavior because we are Black?
I have said in other columns that this day would come because the audits would continue to be poor and that previous board members were too afraid of Mr. Collins’ community friends to act with reasonable prudence. Now, we have a majority of new appointees, young, smart, but maybe afraid to do what is right for the CBM and the people it is to serve.
I have provided the following to the community as a board member leaving soon:
“Be it therefore known: Because of my term ending in, or about December 2011, and not sure if I will remain for the additional six-months, or being reappointed,
“Let it be publicly known: That because the Council on Black Minnesotans’ newest Board members will have to deal with any lasting positive and/or negative consequences regarding the outcome of the Findings relevant to their Executive Director, That this Board member, Lucky Rosenbloom, is compelled to recuse himself from any action relevant to this matter.
“Let it be therefore known that while an active member on the Board, I expect to be notified of and attend ALL meetings relevant to this matter.”
Whatever is decided, the integrity of all Blacks in Minnesota is at issue, because the CBM is the highest, most powerful entity recognizing Black Minnesotans. The choice in dealing with this matter reflects upon the honesty, integrity and professionalism of all Blacks in Minnesota and the way in which elected officials shall see and deal with the CBM in the future.
I have known this during my time on the CBM, which is my reason for holding the CBM accountable with respect to audits and otherwise, such as getting things done on all committees I have served on.
Many have called and advised me to continue on with the strong leadership needed for the future of the CBM. At the end of my term, I am blessed. It appears that what I have been saying for years could be true. CBM: I’m gone.
Lucky Rosenbloom welcomes reader responses to 612-661-0923, or email him at email@example.com.