Power struggle rocks Jordan neighborhood
Here’s the story I wrote for the Spokesman-Recorder on the conflict in Minneapolis’ Jordan neighborhood (and pasted below) that was published today. Watch for “part two.”
Power struggle rocks Jordan neighborhood
by Anna Pratt
Originally posted 1/28/2009
Newly elected JACC leaders push on despite bitter rivalry with ‘alternate board’
At a January 17 press conference, Minneapolis’ Jordan Area Community Council’s (JACC) newly elected leaders tried to clarify recent events.
For starters, JACC’s former executive director, Jerry Moore, was fired by the new board after he got into a fistfight with neighbors.
No one was seriously injured, though a majority of board members agreed it was grounds for immediate dismissal. According to one bystander who didn’t want to be named, it was the mention of suspicious JACC expenditures that set him off.
Secondly, an alternate board set up shop at Jordan New Life Church, claiming that JACC headquarters had to be relocated. While its players claim to be the “real” JACC, the body isn’t eligible for funds from the city, according to some city officials.
Meanwhile, the alternate board is operating with Jerry Moore as its leader, according to its memos.
Around the same time, the JACC office at 2009 James Ave. N. was looted, with computers, financial records and other equipment walking off. It’s currently under investigation by police. Moore ordered that the office’s utilities be shut off, after being fired by the new board, sources say.
Despite the challenges, Jordan resident Vladimir Monroe, who was elected to the board on January 12, said the board’s turnover is a good example of the democratic process at work. In the past, the executive committee wrongly held closed-door meetings; general membership meetings were cancelled, thereby leaving the community out. Requests for information were ignored. Additionally, 70 percent of the neighborhood’s funding from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program dwindled.
Fortunately, “Citizens have recourse,” Monroe said. “We have the ability to elect new individuals to serve. That’s the greatest thing about being a citizen in this country, that we can remove people from office.” Going forward, he hopes JACC will be able to focus on what matters most to Jordan, such as addressing the home foreclosure crisis, youth violence and a community/police rift, among other issues.
Old board versus new board
Benjamin Myers, the former vice chair, is claiming to be the legal vice chair of the alternate board, but he wasn’t re-elected. He contended via e-mail that Michael K. Browne and his fellow executive committee members didn’t follow the
JACC bylaws: “This is all unfortunate because while this is a voluntary position, such positions serve a community that truly needs clear leadership…“[T]hose like-minded individuals committing the illegal acts they have committed show that they are not true leaders. Leaders are those that follow the rules and engage in righteous behavior, not behind closed doors and covert illegal tactics,” Myers said. However, it’s unclear why Myers and other skeptics didn’t go through the regular grievance process to raise the issue.
At the press conference, rivals passed out a flier that characterized the recent elections as a takeover “which can only be described as mutiny, “even though the board members were selected through a public process and a majority of old and new members voted for the new executive committee. Additionally, the incoming group has been recognized by NRP and City Council President Barb Johnson and Council Member Don Samuels.
The flier states that E.B. Brown is the legal board chair, even though she peaceably handed over the reins to Michael K. Browne at the January 14 meeting. Furthermore, E.B. Brown passed on Michael K. Browne’s offer to be vice chair during the same board meeting.
It goes on to say that Myers is the legal vice chair, despite the fact that he wasn’t reelected. Robert Scott is “still Treasurer,” even though he publicly resigned from the board on January 14.
Of the current JACC officers, it reads, “Though this selective group left the meeting this past Wednesday feeling they had successfully taken over this organization, they need to think again! The Executive Committee that was legally voted into office for a term of one year is not stepping down nor will [it] allow any harm to come to this organization or the neighborhood.”
At the recent press conference, Michael K. Browne disputed the alternate board’s allegations, saying that the elections were fair and valid. Board elections were originally to be held in October, “but they were postponed because significant issues were raised,” Browne said.
On January 14, the JACC approved a motion to remove the current executive committee members and to replace them. “It was the board’s prerogative to elect a new executive committee,” Browne said. Additionally, “We checked with the NRP and the City. They said that the bylaws dictate a process.” A November vote regarding the makeup of the executive committee, which the E.B. Brown flier defends, was done improperly, Browne said.
Back then, the executive committee members voted to extend the committee terms. In essence: “They voted to extend their own terms,” straying from protocols, Browne explained. “We applied all of the eligibility requirements to everyone.”
The way things were done on the nominating committee were fair, Browne said, adding, “There were no shortcuts.” Everything that happened is accounted for in the meeting minutes.
Despite the heated back-and-forth, Browne, who led the meeting, said, “We invite those who disagree with us to stick with us and to continue disagreeing with us,” to ensure all voices are heard, he remarked. “Livability is the immediate issue. We will need to organize and hold community forums to develop a strategic plan that is driven by the needs in the community.”
Browned continued by says that JACC’s new leadership “will be guided by principles of accountability and integrity… We can’t do it alone. We need each other. To make the North Side stronger, we need to have respect for each other, even when we disagree with each other.” JACC will move forward “with a spirit of unity and common purpose.”
‘Fair and valid’ elections
NRP director Robert Miller backed Browne up, saying, “The concept of a second board is ludicrous,” adding, “A few people are saying they don’t like what’s happening in the elections and afterward. Ben Myers didn’t get re-elected…yet he’s claiming to have this role. We were careful in the processes used to elect people. I have seen nothing worthy of saying no to and not be recognized. It’s a transition of power.
“The group [that’s complaining about the elections] isn’t admitting [that] it’s for their own personal agenda. It’s a frustration for us and is dysfunction on the part of just a few people… It should be simple, but you have to have people agreeing that the democratic process is OK.
“We’ll work with the group as constituted,” Miller continued. “Hopefully, the board members will withstand the conflict over the next few months.”
Additionally, JACC hasn’t invested the required amount in housing. “We’ll work with them to fulfill that. It might influence how much they’re able to spend on public safety and youth programs. They spent a lot on salaries. There are consequences of that.”
NRP could potentially stop funding JACC as a result of board decisions up until now. “Most [of the old board members] haven’t monitored the funds,” Miller said. A lot of money has been spent on administrative costs.
“That means there won’t be much left for that for the future,” Miller said. Money for programming is still available. At this point, “There are so many unanswered questions, so we can’t say exactly what we would do. Clearly the new board is not responsible and they’d be the ones hammered. The board has done things to secure assets.”