Winton urges State Auditor to look into county video featuring Mark Andrew

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October 18, 2013 // UPDATED 9:57 am - October 22, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Mayoral candidate Cam Winton sent a letter to State Auditor Rebecca Otto Friday urging her to take a look at a Hennepin County video some have criticized for appearing to be an endorsement for mayoral candidate Mark Andrew.

The video features Andrew talking about the success of the Midtown Greenway along with other local officials to mark the 20th anniversary of Hennepin County's Community Works program. The video has also sparked debate on Twitter as supporters of mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges have challenged the timing of the video. (Note: the video has been taken down from the county's YouTube page.)

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, however, has defended the video in tweets responding to the criticism and said the "highly" successful program deserves to be talked about. "Mark was treated the same as [Commissioner Mike] Opat and me — original footage and reflections on the many successes," he said, adding that leaving Andrew "out of the story is like leaving Noah out of the story of the Ark."

McLaughlin is a supporter of Andrew's mayoral campaign.

Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman said County Board members watched the video at the beginning of a meeting yesterday morning. While she said she agrees with McLaughlin that the Community Works program has been a great success and Andrew deserves a lot of credit for it, she was surprised to see the video.

"The timing of the video raises questions," she said, adding that if it was posted a month from now after the election has passed, no one would have objected to it.

Dorfman is backing Hodges in the mayor's race. 

>>> Here's Winton's letter ... 

Madame Auditor:

I hope you’re doing well. I’m writing to bring a certain video to your attention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVSDCeD7Mmg

It appears that Hennepin County spent taxpayer dollars to create a video telling the story of the Midtown Greenway on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. So far, fair enough.

The video devotes significant airtime to former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew. Still, fair enough, as he was indeed instrumental in creating the Greenway.

The County appears to have released the video fewer than three weeks before Election Day in Minneapolis – an election in which (as of course you’re aware) Mr. Andrew is one of my fellow candidates. It’s this last fact with which I take issue.

Intentional or no, the County’s action strongly appears to be a use of taxpayer funds for a partisan purpose, i.e., supporting Mr. Andrew’s candidacy by promoting his signature intiative at an essential time in the campaign.

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin also appears extensively in the video. Given that he is supporting Mr. Andrew in the mayor’s race,* I trust you’ll look into this matter to ensure that no County official chose to turbo-charge their support for Mr. Andrew with taxpayer funds.

*Endorsement: http://www.markforminneapolis.com/endorsements & contribution http://www16.co.hennepin.mn.us/cfrs/getReport.pdf?seq=3&ids=761 (See contribution from “McLaughlin for Mayor”)

Some questions that, respectfully, I encourage you & others to look into:

·         Did Commissioner Peter McLaughlin know that the County would release the video before Election Day, and/or ask anyone to release it before Election Day?

·         Did Mark Andrew and/or the Andrew for Mayor campaign know the County would release the video before Election Day? Did Mr. Andrew and/or the Andrew for Mayor campaign encourage anyone within the County to release it before Election Day?

·         Who decided when to release the video? Put bluntly, if this was just an edu-tainment promo, why not wait three more weeks to release it (i.e., after Election Day)?

Thank you for your continued commitment to ensuring that all levels of government spend taxpayer funds appropriately.

Sincerely,

Cam Winton