He won’t be seated until Jan. 4, but a newly elected Southwest representative to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is already finding himself in hot water.
A complaint filed last month against Brad Bourn alleges that his campaign wrongly claimed to have received endorsements from two Southwest legislators, Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL–60B) and Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-60). The case is expected to soon go before a three-judge panel, after an administrative law judge determined the complaint "sets forth a prima facie violation."
The complaint came from Meg Forney, who lost the Nov. 3 election by a 794-vote margin. Bourn is set to succeed Bob Fine as the Park Board’s District 6 commissioner.
The centerpiece of Forney’s concerns was a flyer Bourn’s campaign sent out in the days leading up to the election. It listed Dibble and Hornstein among Bourn’s supporters, even though the legislators said they wanted to stay neutral in the race.
Bourn hasn’t denied that the flyer wrongly contained the pair’s endorsements. On Nov. 1, he addressed the issue head-on on his campaign website, saying his campaign knew about the mistake but not in time to stop the printer.
“I accept responsibility for the error in the mailer and apologize for any confusion this may have caused,” he wrote. “Our campaign noticed this error and brought it to the immediate attention of Sen. Dibble, Rep. Hornstein and my opponent.”
Bourn’s note, however, didn’t say which of his three opponents — Forney, Steve Jecha or Geneva Hanvik — he was referring to as “my opponent.” Later in the post, he wrote that “my opponent” made “a similar mistake” while screening for an endorsement with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Neither Bourn nor Forney could be immediately reached for comment.
If Bourn’s campaign were found to have been at fault, a penalty would be based on how willful the campaign was in making the error and how much of an impact it had on the election’s outcome. Fines could range from $0 to $5,000, and the case could be passed onto the Hennepin County Attorney.
Jecha has been blogging about the issue since mid-November and said Bourn’s campaign should get a big fine. The flyers had an impact on the election outcome, he wrote Dec. 1, and therefore, “in my opinion, the only action that the three judge panel can take on this case is to proceed with a $1200–$2400 fine and to forward this to the County Attorney.”
“While some may be upset that a campaign complaint was filed,” Jecha wrote Nov. 18, “… if a law has been broken we all owe it to the system to make sure we police it and make sure it doesn’t happen — with any candidates in any election.”
Two other accusations in Forney’s complaint were dismissed. Forney said Bourn falsely claimed endorsement from Ted Wirth, the late grandson of former Superintendent Theodore Wirth, who died in September but whose endorsements were shared through a friend before the election. Forney’s complaint said Wirth, who had been sick for months, had been of “questionable capacity.”
She also said Bourn’s campaign used confusing and misleading statements when referring to “my opponent” because there was more than one, but Judge Barbara Neilson said a statement Forney called misleading actually was clearly cited.
Click here to read Neilson’s order.
Cristof Traudes can be reached at 436-5088 or [email protected].