Tuesday, February 8, 2011

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: OMG $103,770 In Minneapolis Public School Money Reportedly Funneled To "Mayor of Crazy Town" Al Flowers!

Contributed stock photo, blog post by John Hoff
Amid a rising firestorm of controversy over the Minneapolis public school system awarding a $15,000 contract to Don Allen of IBNN to (allegedly) make a series of commercials to bring students back to the Minneapolis public school district more information is coming loose alleging an even more shocking boondoggle of wasted school system dollars.

Last night, a high ranking and knowledgeable government source spoke to me on strict condition of confidentiality about the shocking reality of Al Flowers managing to shake loose $103,000 worth of school system money. Because I had nothing else handy to write on, I used a child's looseleaf notebook paper and a lavender "sparkly pen" to take notes. Though the source is convinced this expenditure of approximately $103,000 in scarce and precious school system dollars to a notorious loon really did happen, I must make it clear this is an allegation. I do not have a contract, receipts, checks, or anything like that in my hands. All I have is the word of my government source--a very solid source, I might add, who I absolutely trust--and one page of notes written with a sparkly pen.

For many months, it has been rumored among the movers and shakers in North Minneapolis that notorious gadfly and appallingly unsuccessful mayoral candidate Al Flowers had somehow gotten a big payoff of public school money, with the figure $100,000 thrown around quite a bit...

Attempts to confirm this with the school system were unsuccessful, however, though at one point Jordan Neighborhood "super citizen" Megan Goodmundson sent email inquiries to Dan Loewenson, assistant to the superintendent. In response to an information request about any contract with Al Flowers, here was Loewenson's reply on May 28, 2010:

"At this current time, and in the recent past, Al Flowers has not had any business arrangement or contract with the Minneapolis public schools. Mr. Flowers has been present at many public meetings and has requested information on many aspects of the district's work but has acted as a citizen and community activist in his interactions with us."

Goodmundson states that she figured Loewenson was doing "something slick" with his reply, and if there were any financial dealings with Flowers these dealings might be indirect or there could be some kind of entity actually receiving the money. In Goodmundson's mind, she was asking "Fess up: has that lunatic Al Flowers somehow managed to get his hands on all or part of $100,000 that originated as school system money?" But if you don't say exactly and precisely the magic words--if you don't know the actual name of the entity, or if there's a reasonably reputable fiscal agent disbursing the money to the entity--well, how will you ask the question that actually gets the information you're seeking from a mealy-mouthed bureaucrat?

To some degree, the information has been out in the public all along. Since about November of 2008, Don Allen of IBNN has been shouting about "Al Flowers" and $103,770 worth of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) money that was (allegedly) funneled through the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL) to an entity called Front Street Marketing. Click here for JNS support site to view a document which captures discussion posted by (it appears) Don Allen on Facebook. (If the document disappears from Facebook in the manner of Don Allen's "talking baby" video disappearing from YouTube, that's fine, because screen shots have been saved)

There are, however, difficulties with the fact the information was posted by Don Allen. I can identity at least three difficulties.

1. First and foremost, Don Allen has a reputation for distorting and mangling the truth. You simply can't believe what he says anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the time. He has a tendency to mix pieces of the truth with his own vicious brand of deliberate falsehood.

The most notorious example is, of course, Poopgate. Yes, blogger Eric Johnson published a photo of a hooker who was urinating or defecating on the side of a house. (Truth) But Eric did not stage the photo or pay the hooker. (Falsehood, made up and published by Don Allen) In fact, it's well known in the neighborhood that Eric didn't even take the photo and Eric has never pretended otherwise. Poopgate is merely the most disturbing-yet-amusing example of Don Allen making s*** up.

So there's the problem. Yes, Don Allen has cried out for years about Al Flowers and $103,770. But who cares? It was DON ALLEN saying it. The examples of Allen's dubious reputation (everything from a company he worked for being raided by the Secret Service to a criminal record) are legion.

2. Second, Don Allen's relationship with Flowers is ambiguous. Sometimes Allen seems to be Flowers' ally, and posts complimentary stuff about Flowers. Other times, Allen goes on the offensive against Flowers, as with a post he wrote on December 14, 2010, which once again took Flowers to task and brought up the $100k, note the following paragraph:
If you recall, in 2008 the Minneapolis Urban League in collaboration with Front Street Marketing, and Alfred Flowers received a pilot program grant from the Minneapolis Public Schools of more than $103,770.00 dollar to create and after-school tutoring program. I know this because I was asked to work on completing some of the paperwork and when I submitted the finished document with an invoice, I was told I wasn’t getting paid s*** and to never come back to the Minneapolis Urban League.
So when Allen criticizes Flowers over the $103,770, one has to keep in mind...Allen is claiming to have worked on "completing some of the paperwork" related to that very project. His main beef? He didn't get some of the dough.

The ambiguity of the relationship between Flowers and Allen forces one to wonder about the truthfulness and motivation of the assertions that $103,770 was funneled to a Flowers-affiliated entity through MUL. Did this actually HAPPEN or was Don Allen merely WORRIED that it happened, and he didn't get a cut, but in reality...maybe a proposal went forward but nothing actually happened. (My source says otherwise, though) It's problematic enough that Don Allen is simply a liar, click here for another incredible example. Even if Don Allen weren't such a liar, the ambiguity of the Flowers/Allen relationship makes it difficult to discern the truthfulness of Allen's statement about Minneapolis School System money being funneled in the direction of Flowers and Front Street Marketing.

3.) Any interesting or relevant points Don Allen might make are buried so far beneath bad, rambling, unclear yet prolific writing that anything important Allen says is likely to be ignored, missed, or dismissed as crazed ranting. As an English Writing Major (magna cum laude) I've never been able to understand a certain type of person who is haunted by an incredible compulsion to write...yet writes so badly. Blogger Eric Johnson of Irving Inquisition actually did an extensive post dedicated to Don Allen's struggles with the English language.

So now I am put in the odd position of publishing an "exclusive story" about information that has been floating around since November of 2008, but here's the difference: it's being said by a highly believable source instead of just Don Allen. And let the public judge the credibility of this blog.

My source says as follows: Flowers was affiliated with a guy named Todd Barnes. Barnes is, of course, well known in the Jordan Neighborhood as the individual who did "strategic planning" for Jerry Moore, the former and ousted Executive Director of the Jordan Neighborhood who is currently suing this blog. The strategic planning took the form of a hard copy report which the source characterized as "unacceptable and immature." The neighborhood paid a respectable sum of money for the report. My source said $13,000. I do not have confirmation of that amount.

However, I saw the actual report about a year ago. There is somebody in the Jordan Neighborhood who has a copy. In fact, the person who possesses this copy notoriously walked off with that document when Ben Myers, who used to be in a leadership position at JACC, tried to call back the hard copies from being distributed.

It is indeed accurate to say the report looks to have been thrown together by somebody working at a junior high school level. In any case, Barnes is known in the Jordan Neighborhood because of his former affiliation with JACC and Jerry Moore. My source says Barnes was affiliated with Al Flowers. Another source states the Flowers/Barnes entity was known as Front Street Marketing, the same entity Don Allen was screaming about in November of 2008.

The $103,000 was "processed through Minneapolis Urban League (MUL) as fiscal agent," according to my source, who adds that, unfortunately, MUL has a history of this kind of loose money management and incidents like this have been "allowed to happen." In a speculative way, the source adds this:

In regard to the $15,000 that Don Allen is scheduled to receive from the Minneapolis School System for god-knows-what, there is a "likelihood that (Al) Flowers is part of the latest deal."

In the latest twist on the Don Allen saga: in court on Monday, during a pretrial hearing for the frivolous Jerry Moore "defamation" case, Don Allen spoke in open court about his desire to get a "harassment restraining order" against this blogger for writing things about his $15,000 contract with the public school system. Don Allen also threatened to get a restraining order against mild-mannered Twin Cities Daily Planet reporter Sheila Regan, as Regan made clear in a sidebar article published earlier today.

This blog post is published for the purpose of seeking favorable government action and redress of grievances, specifically in regard to credible and believable reports that notorious agitator Al Flowers got his hands upon some portion of $103,770 worth of public monies from a struggling Minneapolis school system.

An editorial note: We in North Minneapolis are tired of the shakedowns by self-serving poverty pimps who stoke racial tensions for the purpose of creating a payday for themselves, whether it be money from the government or private foundations or frivolous lawsuits, and by this I specifically mean individuals like Al Flowers and Don Allen. We are sick of our public officials playing into this sick, twisted and self-perpetuating game behind closed doors and dodging our pointed questions, and pretending everything is just fine.

Don Allen must NOT receive $15,000 worth of public money.

And we want the facts about this alleged $103,770 expenditure of MLS money involving MUL, Front Street Marketing, Flowers and/or Barnes. We want the facts and we want them quickly.


The I.I. said...

This reminds me of how the early days of the Iraq war. A pallet loaded with $12,000,000,000 was dropped off in the desert and simply disappeared.

P.S. See a related posting at Irving Inquisition.

Johnny Northside said...

I am posting the following comment I received, but not the name chosen by the poster:


15k are no pocket change, but in the budget of MPS it is a blip. The calculation error of million dollars about the recent contract probably contains 15k as rounding error. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be exposed, but don't spend too much blog time on this. The 103k for Al flowers are more interesting: why would Al get this kind of money that could go to a teaching position?


I will not allow "identity confusion" on this blog to be perpetrated. The Deets blog spoke about this recently, too.

It's an all-out crackdown on trolls here on the NoMi "revitalizer blogs."

Anonymous said...

Hey, why don't you be clear and concise when writing your damn blog? Holy long, annoying, confusing, un-perfect post! You kind of screwed this one up (oh, and this is not the only one that has errors). You might want to try again. I could go on and on about your grammatical errors in this blog, but I work for a living, so I can pay my taxes on my house. So, unfortunately, I need to get back to work. One thing I will point out before I go is the use of the term "we". If you're going to talk crap about how other people write...take a lesson for yourself! Be CLEAR and indicate who "we in north" is. You represent a small amount of angry folks, not all of North! Thanks and good luck in clarity and precision in your writing!

Anonymous said...

This is an awesome story--like the exciting reportage from the days of the JACC old majority lawsuit days! Keep it up! This is an important story. Until our city leaders quit pandering to the self-serving demagogues who profit from Northside misery, actual Northside residents will never get the functioning city services and transparent democracy up here that other neighborhoods take for granted.

Johnny Northside! said...

Some more info turned up about this.

A community resident, whose name I have removed from the email below, made an inquiry to the Urban League about whether there was any truth concerning the reports of more than $100k going to Al Flowers. This is the reply that came from the Urban League on December 23, 2008.

From: Sylvia Loveless Amos [mailto: sploveless@mul.org ]
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 9:58 AM
Cc: David Oguamanam; Wassberg, Catherine P
Subject: RE: Could you please provide some background?

Good Morning XXXXXX,

This is pure fiction. If you are familiar with Don Allen, the author of this fiction, then you know he is not a credible individual. I encourage you to contact the MPS in regard to this contract, I’m sure they will be happy to share with you the progress of this contract. I also encourage you to talk directly with our Interim President & CEO, David Oguamanam, spokesperson for the Minneapolis Urban League to get the real facts. Mr. Oguamanam is on vacation today, but he will be in tomorrow. Please give him a call at 612-302-3100 and he will be more than happy to share the facts with you and any other concerned community resident.

I sincerely appreciate your concerns and assure you that the Minneapolis Urban League has and will always conduct business and provide services to our community in a highly professional manner, with integrity, responsibility and accountability.

Again, thank you for your inquiry.

Sylvia Loveless Amos
Chief Administrative Officer

It would appear this is basically a denial that this big windfall of MPS money to Al Flowers--through the Urban League--ever happened, contrary to my creditable source and (usually) non-creditable source Don Allen.

JNS blog is still digging.

Anonymous said...

Minnesota Government Data Practices Act
An Overview
The Government Data Practices Act, Minnesota Statutes, chapter 13, creates a
presumption that state and local government records are accessible to the public,
unless a statute or rule provides otherwise.

Johnny Northside! said...

Here's an email I received on this topic in the last couple of days. Read the lawyered up wording VERY carefully.

Mr. Hoff:

I am sorry if my wording was confusing. It was meant to be reassuring - that according to all of our records, Mr. Flowers has now or in the past had a contract with the District. I know that he is and was a volunteer in several community based projects in Mpls. with which organizations the District did have contractual agreements. He has volunteered for these organizations which have partnerships with some schools but he has never signed a contract or been a contractor with the District.


Dan Loewenson
Assistant to the Superintendent
Minneapolis Public Schools

Johnny Northside! said...

To which I replied:

Well, now you're even LESS reassuring. You meant to type "has," right, and not "has not"?

Mr. Flowers HAS now or in the past had a contract with the District, is that correct?


Johnny Northside! said...

I received the following follow up email from Dan Loewenson:

Mr. Hoff;

You are correct again.

The sentence should have read…” Mr. Flowers has not now nor in the past had a contract with the District.

This flatly contradicts what my source, a public official, has told me. I am not sure how to resolve this conflict of stories.

Whistle Blower said...

I think you can resolve it by taking into account that if the contract we are thinking of and referring to is actually written with some entity like oh gee, I don't know DWRA2, LLC, then this MPS talking head guy can say "mr. flowers has not had or in the past had a contract with" - yeah, because the contract is with an entity that Mr Flowers is involved with. ( I just used DWRA2 as an example)

Anonymous said...

Good point whistleblower.

That is one of the things I've been looking into. Maybe it's an inactive LLC?

If someone wants to ask Dan Loewenson a proper follow up question maybe it would be something like:

"Do you have knowledge of Mr. Flowers being either employed or a subcontractor to any organization with which the District has or had contractual agreements?"
Not knowing the question you originally asked , this may have already been asked.