Charges not reason to doubt city government, say SW councilmembers

Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of Minneapolis City Councilmember Joe Biernat earlier this month. Biernat allegedly accepted $2,700 worth of plumbing work from the man he helped appoint to the city's Plumbers Examining Board. Biernat has pleaded not guilty to charges of public corruption.

But this isn't the first time in recent memory the city has had to deal with a scandal involving an elected official.

In July, city Councilmember Brian Herron resigned after admitting to extorting money from a constituent in exchange for the promise of regulatory help.

City councilmembers from Southwest Minneapolis, however, are telling their constituents to rest assured: it's not a trend--local government is trustworthy.

Dan Niziolek: 10th Ward "After the Brian Herron situation, the city had an independent review done. That study really spoke highly about the integrity of city staff and elected officials. My comment to people is that in people's dealings with the city and with this outside independent review, it clearly shows we have high integrity in our professional staff and our elected officials. Of course, we still have to wait for an outcome

[in the Joe Biernat case]."

Dean Zimmermann 6th Ward "A person should always be on guard that their government is corrupt. Vigilance is the only safeguard of democracy. Citizens should always be alert and aware of what's going on. Not that I believe Joe Biernat is or is not involved in any shenanigans."

Barret Lane: 13th Ward "I don't think there is any need not to trust local

government because of the Joe Biernat situation. I'm telling my constituents to withhold their judgment until the facts are in and the court has a chance to rule. I think [this process] should instill faith in government because the court system is part of government."

Robert Lilligren 8th Ward "Interestingly, because of the Herron situation last summer, I have already dealt with this issue. It was something I had to deal with to have a successful campaign in the fall--people wanted to know I am trus worthy… I think the community senses that we are elected officials who want to be held accountable."