Commissioner Mark Stenglein Should Recuse Himself from Stadium Vote
Note: Lloydletta readers can help defeat the ethically challenged Mark Stenglein by contributing to Greg Gray's campaign here.
Here's a copy of the letter I sent Stenglein yesterday asking him to recuse himself from the Stadium vote:
Subject: Please RECUSE Yourself from the Stadium Vote
Even if you are within the letter of the law, the APPEARANCE of
conflict of interest stinks. The revolving door of your campaign
staff going from your office to Twinsville, to Pawlenty's office has a
definite odor to it.
Then I copied this post from Lloydletta's Nooz as a
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein's conflict of interest on
It's ironic that MPR's midday at the Fair had the ethically challenged
Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein to push the Stadium
boondoggle. Unfortunately no caller called Mark Stenglein on his
conflict of interest.
From the Strib:
May 29, 2005, Sunday, Metro Edition
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1B
LENGTH: 1133 words
Stadium vote puts friendship in focus;
A political pal of Mark Stenglein is involved in ownership of the site
BYLINE: Mike Kaszuba; Staff Writer
With the fate of the proposed Minnesota Twins stadium hanging in the balance three weeks ago, Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein cast a key vote for a plan to use a new countywide sales tax to fund the $478 million project.
Stenglein told an overflow crowd that he was "proud to support" the proposal, and that "big thinkers did big projects." What he did not tell them, although he had discussed it privately with his County Board colleagues before the 4-3 vote, was that he has a close personal and political connection to Bruce Lambrecht, a central figure in the limited partnership that owns the proposed stadium property.
This shows a serious lack in Mark Stenglein's ethical compass. He should recuse himself from future votes on this issue.
When Stenglein ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Minneapolis in 2001, Lambrecht was an influential member of his campaign - holding a
fundraiser for Stenglein at Lambrecht's home and leasing office space to the Stenglein campaign. Lambrecht, according to Hennepin County Commissioner Penny Steele, an opponent of the stadium plan, helped recruit Stenglein to run for mayor and was "probably one of his best friends." Stenglein's campaign manager during that race, Brian McClung, later worked as a lobbyist for Twinsville Inc., a company used by Lambrecht to help promote the stadium and a redevelopment plan for the surrounding area. McClung now serves as Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spokesman.
I told Stenglein his biggest mistake was to hire McClung as his campaign manager. McClung doesn't understand Minneapolis. I wasn't aware of McClung's connections to Twinsville Inc.
And last year, a Stenglein aide took a leave of absence from his county job to work as a lobbyist for Lambrecht and Twinsville Inc. The aide, Mike Sable, said he was approached by Lambrecht and others for the job, and said he cleared the three-month leave with Stenglein.
In recent interviews, Stenglein downplayed his relationship with Lambrecht and said that because they have no private financial dealings, there is no conflict of interest. Stenglein said he does not plan to abstain on any future votes on the project at the county, where his vote is seen as critical. The withdrawal of his support could scuttle the stadium proposal, which is currently waiting legislative action.
Stenglein's constituents should write him to ask him to recuse himself from this vote.
"I don't have any financial relationship with him," Stenglein said. He said Lambrecht is "not a dear confidante, by no means. It'd be more political; [I] met him through political circles."
"I've never gotten any money from him in terms of lieu of services - I've never worked for him," Stenglein said. He added, however, that with the stadium proposal now in the public eye, he has attempted to keep an arm's-length relationship with Lambrecht. "I've been kinda doing that ever since this baseball thing really kinda came to reality," he said.
Lambrecht said Friday that while he and his family "are friends with Mark and his family," he did not lobby Stenglein before the County Board's May 3 vote to pursue the stadium proposal. He also said he served only as an unpaid volunteer during Stenglein's mayoral race, and minimized his role in the campaign.
"I never urged Stenglein to run for mayor or any other office," Lambrecht said in a written statement.
Yeah, right. How much has Lambrecht raised for Stenglein's campaigns?
Though the county has not entered into negotiations to buy the stadium site - the proposal actually would leave that job for a new, independent ballpark authority - both the county and the Twins see the so-called Rapid Park property in the downtown Minneapolis Warehouse District as the preferred stadium location. Lambrecht and Rich Pogin are shareholders in Investment Management Inc., the managing entity for a series of limited partnerships that own the property. At a news conference announcing the agreement between the county and the Twins, Lambrecht joined Twins owner Carl Pohlad and others in speaking about the plan.
Under the proposed agreement, the Twins would contribute $125 million to the construction of the stadium and the county, by increasing a countywide sales tax, would pay $235 million toward the stadium. The county would also be responsible for related infrastructure costs. The additional sales tax could last for as long as 30 years and collect as much as $1.1 billion.
The plan's most controversial feature calls for the Legislature to exempt the county from having to hold a referendum on the sales tax increase.
Governor Tim Pawlenty reiterated his preference for a referendum at the State Fair today. He should be called to urge him to veto any legislation that exempts Hennepin County from requiring a referendum to increase sales taxes to subsidize a twins stadium.
Stenglein said he talked with other commissioners about Lambrecht, and the issue was raised by Steele. He said she told him, "You're friends with Lambrecht. You better not have any financial dealings with him."
Asked about the Stenglein-Lambrecht connection, Steele said, "I would personally opt out of the vote." Lambrecht, she said, was "terribly involved" in Stenglein's mayoral race.
Steele should know. Thank you Penny Steele for speaking out.
Board Chair Randy Johnson, a stadium supporter, said Stenglein approached him about Lambrecht. "I said, 'Do you have any business, financial, joint interests [with him] at all?" said Johnson. "He said, 'Absolutely not.'"
"I don't see the conflict in it," said Johnson, who added however that he had received e-mails regarding Stenglein's relationship with Lambrecht. "I don't see this as even coming close."
Similarly, Commissioner Mike Opat, the county's chief negotiator on the proposed stadium, said he asked Stenglein about his ties with Lambrecht. "I think I did ask Mark, was there a business relationship?" said Opat. "I'm certain the answer was no." Opat said he brought up the topic with Stenglein "as we got closer to having an
agreement" with the Twins over the past two months.
Opat said he did not see a conflict for Stenglein. "I was never led to believe there was anything that was untoward," he said.
It's not surprising Opat would say this. Opat recently had a hissy fit in a Strib oped that suggested the world would end if the legislature exempted Hennepin County from the Referendum requirements for this sales tax increase.
Stenglein said he actually first became acquainted with Lambrecht's wife, Jeanne Braun, when Braun owned a company that competed with Les Work Inc., a company Stenglein owned that would sublet executive office space in the Twin Cities. Stenglein started his company before he became a county commissioner in 1996, and said he has since sold it.
Lisa McDonald, a former Minneapolis City Council member who also ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2001, said she remembered Lambrecht playing a key role in Stenglein's campaign. "He certainly seemed like the brains in the campaign," she said. At most of the campaign's public events, she added, Lambrecht was there with Stenglein. "He was always down in the back of the room," she said.
McDonald said she too wondered about Stenglein's relationship with Lambrecht as the stadium deal unfolded. "[I thought], 'My, my, isn't this a fine kettle of fish," she said.
McDonald would be aware of this.
Vickie Heller, a prominent Minneapolis property owner who is active in conservative politics, said she held a fundraiser for Stenglein in 2001. Though she said she does not recall Lambrecht's title, Heller said Lambrecht appeared to be running the campaign. "He was always around at every fundraiser that I had anything to do with for Stenglein," she said.
Mike Kaszuba is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vickie Heller would know on this issue. Commissioners Opat and Johnson should be ashamed of themselves. It goes without saying that Commissioner Mark Stenglein is an embarrassment to his district and should recuse himself from future votes on the stadium issue. Kudos to Commissioner Penny Steele for raising this issue. It's rather odd that Minneapolis Mayoral candidate Peter McLaughlin wasn't asked to
I posted a copy of this on Minneapolis Issues also. I have to respectfully disagree with Mark Hanson. I believe Mark Stenglein is the most embarrassing of the county commissioners. He has strong competition from Mike Opat and Peter McLaughlin.