Monthly Archives: July 2004

Backroom Deal Hired Jon Gurban

Published December 19, 2003 in the Star Tribune

We regret to report that at the last Park Board meeting of the year, Commissioners Bob Fine, Marie Hauser, Carol Kummer, Jon Olson and Walt Dziedzic appointed a superintendent after circumventing the interview process, which featured four highly qualified semifinalists who were willing to continue.

Instead they appointed, for a one-year term, someone who never applied through our chosen search firm and did not interview for the position. At least one commissioner has never met this person, and we received no information about him before his appointment.

Arrangements for this appointment were clearly made among this group of five commissioners before the meeting and out of the public eye. We were given a two-page résumé after the motion was made, no letters of recommendation, no transcripts or any of the other documents that the prior applicants were required to provide.

We believe they have done a great disservice to the citizens of our great city and the institution of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and its employees. We are concerned about circumvention of the board’s agreed-upon selection process. We believe the process should be continued.

Rochelle Berry Graves, John Erwin, Vivian Mason, Annie Young, commissioners, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Jon Gurban Loses MRPA's Gambling License

New Park Board superintendent lost gambling license
Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune
Published December 27, 2003

The Minnesota Recreation and Park Association lost its license to sell pulltabs during Jon Gurban’s time as its executive director.

In 1998, the state Gambling Control Board pulled the trade group’s license because of insufficient oversight of its pulltab operations.

Gurban is now the incoming superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. He was approved by an acrimonious 5-4 vote Dec. 17 without advance public notice. The Park Board approved him as superintendent without so much as a job interview, yet his handling of the Park Association’s gambling license would seem to at least merit discussion.

Reached at his home Friday, Gurban questioned why the gambling license was an issue. He blamed a predatory Gambling Control Board, not lax controls, for the two-year license revocation. “There’s just far too much bureaucracy and very little assistance from the gaming authority people,” he said. “They’re not there to help you. They’re there to catch you.”

The Gambling Board said the association failed to maintain internal controls to protect the operation.

In addition, the Gambling Board said the association conducted gambling without the oversight of a licensed supervisor, transferred gambling funds to its general account without board approval, and contracted with accountants who did not qualify as gambling managers.

Tom Barrett, the Gambling Board director, said the state agency is not “out to get people. We’re in the business of regulating charitable gambling, and one of the mottos we live by is ‘do the right thing.’ ”

The pulltab problem was known to at least some Minneapolis Park Board members when they voted on Gurban, but it wasn’t discussed before the vote.

The Park Board had conducted a national search to replace Mary Merrill Anderson. But when the top candidates withdrew, the board felt it had little time to find a replacement.

Gurban’s appointment was controversial in part because he did not apply for the $112,000-a-year job, nor did his name surface in the national search. His résumé was distributed after Board Member Walt Dziedzic moved to nominate him.

Two of Gurban’s Park Board supporters see no problems with the gambling matter.

Park Board President Bob Fine said concerns about the pulltab issue were overblown. He said that a background check on Gurban came back clean and that he has since passed management and psychological tests.

Board Member Carol Kummer said the gambling issue “did not sound like a big problem.”

The Park Association’s board voted in 1994 to get into legal gambling. From 1995 through April 1998, the board raised $400,000 in revenue, according to a letter — written by Gurban — in the Gambling Board file.

Of that money, more than $300,000 was distributed in grants to recreation programs statewide, according to the letter. The association ran into trouble because it delegated much of its gambling operations to the accounting firm Dittmer & Peterson.

The association paid the firm $9,000 a month. One association board member had questioned whether the payments were excessive, suggesting the market rate for such services was $800 a month.

Gurban said the association’s board approved gambling as a “turnkey operation,” meaning the management of the operations would be contracted, not run by the association.

Gurban blamed the Gambling Board for the association’s problems. “Somewhere along the line, someone at Dittmer & Peterson got somebody at lawful gaming [the Gambling Board] mad, and they were determined to get Dittmer & Peterson,” Gurban said.

Gurban has ties to the accounting firm, according to Gambling Board records.

Gurban’s high school acquaintance Joe Brady referred him to Dittmer & Peterson. Brady also landed work with the Park Association as the pulltab supplier, according to a letter in the board’s file written by association President Dolf Moon.

Barrett specifically denied any vendetta against Dittmer & Peterson. He said the Park Association needed to take a more active role in managing the gambling. “The concern we have with the organizations we license, they can’t just delegate,” Barrett said. “We also look to the CEO as ultimately responsible for the gambling operation.”

The association is now out of gambling, and gambling apparently won’t be an issue for the Minneapolis Park Board. As a trade group, the Park Association is funded through memberships, not the government.

As a governmental agency, the Minneapolis Park Board is barred from participating in gambling.

Fine, who also knows Gurban from high school, said he has a strong personal opposition to gambling.

Staff writer Paul McEnroe contributed to this report.

Rochelle Olson is at [email protected].

Gluek Park Makeover

Revamped plans to clean up asbestos-contaminated Gluek Park along the Mississippi River in northeast Minneapolis could leave residents with a completely redesigned park.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency originally planned to dig out and replace 18 inches of soil, but now it will remove and replace up to 8 feet, said EPA officials. The change will cut the park’s slope in half at certain locations to stave off erosion, said Sonia Vega, the local EPA coordinator.

Park Board Solicits Public Input on New Superintendent Qualities

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) announced that the Board will hold a public input session during the next regularly schedule Board Meeting. The session will take place at the Park Board Headquarters Building on:

August 4, 2004 at 6:30 p.m.
2117 West River Road North
Minneapolis, MN 55411

The Board is in the process of selecting a new Park Superintendent and requests input from the community regarding the qualities and attributes desired in the next Park Superintendent. A final selection will be made by November 2004, with the Park Superintendent in place by January 2005.

“This will be an opportunity for residents and park users to inform the Board about what’s important in hiring the next Park Superintendent and we’ll use that input in our decision,” said Jon Olson, Board Chair.

Park Board Meeting

Regular park board commissioners meeting.


July 21, 2004: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) announced that the Board will hold a public input session during the next regularly schedule Board Meeting. The session will take place at the Park Board Headquarters Building on:

August 4, 2004 at 6:30 p.m.
2117 West River Road North
Minneapolis, MN 55411

The Board is in the process of selecting a new Park Superintendent and requests input from the community regarding the qualities and attributes desired in the next Park Superintendent. A final selection will be made by November 2004, with the Park Superintendent in place by January 2005.

“This will be an opportunity for residents and park users to inform the Board about what’s important in hiring the next Park Superintendent and we’ll use that input in our decision,” said Jon Olson, Board Chair.

More details when they become available.

When the Park Board posts their official agenda documents, a link will be posted here.

July 21, 2004 Park Board Meeting Highlights

These are my minutes from Wednesday’s Park Board Meeting, they will be short and sweet.

Admin and Finance Committee was called to order at 5:02 and most people were on time this week. First on the agenda was a report from staff and Bob Falsted (sp) of Alpha Video. They reported that all that was needed to see if the video feed was ready was permission from BNSF to lay some coaxial cable in their right of way. They would then be able to see if they could feed to the cable company and then broadcast. The soonest would be Wednesday August 4 but more likely would be August 18th. They then asked for feedback from the DVD/Video of the last meeting that was made available for the Board Members to view at their leisure. Commissioner Kummer was quick to chime in about the dull gray background and was joined by others with various decorating suggestions. It was decided that maybe some paint or some of the old decor from the previous board room should go up. Mr. Falsted asked only that some colors that were NOT TV friendly be avoided…(can’t wait to see the NEW SET).

Next up was a discussion of Board Rules. Not much was changed except where to have petitions and communications on the full board agenda. They should now come before new business. Some language was also reworded and some dropped. The most interesting item brought up was to change the rules so that the incoming President of the Board had less power to make committee and other assignments. This topic had much discussion and most revolved around fairness and that the city council has done it another way. It was decided to bring this up at another date
for discussion (when????).

The other big discussion was over how much of the 3 hours of video time they had reserved for each week was to be used or broadcast of the meeting and how much for park announcements and activities. After much discussion over trying to keep the meetings on task and moving along vs. debate being stymied and people being cut short it was decided that the “extra” time after the meeting would be filled if there was any available with video clips of activities in the parks and announcements and such.

Admin and Finance adjourned at 6:10.

Full Board called to order by President Olson.

No one appeared for OPEN TIME.

Petitions and Communications

There was an accident at Parade Stadium involving a police chase and Commissioner Dziedzic hoped the city would cover any non-insured damages (city police).

Commissioner Mason is still receiving calls and letters about the need for a stop sign at 32nd and West Calhoun Parkway.

Commissioner Kummer had received a letter from a citizen who was not allowed to place a flyer at Pearl Park and was not pleased.

Commissioner Hauser mentioned some good press about Powderhorn Park and the Fringe Fest.

Approx. $70,000 was spent and some NRP agreements were made.

Commissioner Dziedzic is so glad the neighbors want to invest their NRP Dollars to keep the parks nice.

A big thank you was given to the Compass Company for putting up $10,000 for the Elliot Park Skatepark (and to Commissioner Mason for her help in facilitating this).

The meeting adjourned at 7:25 PM

Superintendent Search Off Track

As an observer at the July 21 Park Board meeting, what I found to be of special interest was not what was on the agenda, but what was NOT on the agenda–the sin of omission one might say.

At the previous Park Board meeting, the Park Board selected (by a 5 to 3 vote) the Oldani Group to conduct the superintendent’s search. To follow its timeline, the Park Board scheduled the review of application and promotional literature for the search for the July 21 meeting. But someone failed to follow through and the superintendent’s search — a major Park Board responsibility — was not on the agenda as it was supposed to have been. When I mentioned this to a couple of commissioners, they too were surprised.

The next Park Board meeting is on August 4; stay tuned.

Star Tribune: Jon Gurban sues Minn. Rec. & Park Assoc.

Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune

Interim Minneapolis Park and Recreation Superintendent Jon Gurban is suing his former employer for $26,877 in accrued vacation pay and penalties plus interest and attorneys’ fees.

Earlier this year, Gurban for 12 days simultaneously held full-time posts as park board superintendent and executive director of the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association, the parks trade group. His hiring by the park board was abrupt and controversial.

In a counterclaim filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court, the association said that Gurban started his board job on Jan. 1 and resigned from the association on Jan. 12. “As of that time, he was purporting to act as a full-time employee for two different employers at the same time,” the association’s claim said.

The counterclaim said Gurban breached his employment contract by serving as a full-time employee at two places and failing to provide 30 days’ notice of the termination of his contract with the association.

The association asks that Gurban’s complaint be dismissed and that he be ordered to pay damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

Gurban, who led the association for 10 years, claims he is owed $22,407 in accrued vacation and unused sick leave. He submitted a written demand for the pay on Feb. 5 and, because it was not met within 24 hours, he claims he is owed an additional 15 days of earnings, or $4,470. He also wants interest and attorney fees covered.

Gurban, a Minneapolis resident, is paid $112,000 annually by the park board.

Crown Hydro Plans to Take Mill Ruins Park Site by Eminent Domain if Possible

Crown Hydro, having been denied a lease on river-front park property by the Park Board is now investigating several alternatives, including simply taking the land from the Park Board via eminent domain, or buying the Crown Roller Mill building from the owner who refused to lease space to them. Below is the text of the Crown Hydro filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stating those intentions.

Ms. Magalie R. Saias
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20426

RE: Crown Hydro LLC.
Project No. 11175-016MN

Dear Ms. Sales:

As Crown Hydro LLC (“Crown Hydro”) previously advised, on Wednesday, May 19, 2004, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (“Park Board”) voted 4 to 5 against the motion to approve a lease of parklands to Crown Hydro for the abovereferenced project. By correspondence dated May 28, 2004, Crown Hydro advised the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) of the Park Board’s action and requested that the Commission not take action on Crown Hydro’s pending petition for an amendment to its license for ninety (90) days. The basis for Crown Hydro’s request was that Crown Hydro is currently reviewing at least four options for continued project development. This correspondence adV’LSeS the Commission of Crown Hydro’s progress in reviewing these options.

Crown Hydro’s preferred location for the project is still at the Cataract Mill site within the Park Board’s Mill Ruins Park. Crown Hydro is reviewing the lease and hopes to continue discussions with the Park Board staff to reach an agreement on terms and conditions of a lease that would be acceptable to the Park Board.

In addition, Crown Hydro is reviewing any right to eminent domain it may have under Section 21 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). In correspondence dated October 16, 2003, the Commission concluded that the right to eminent domain did not exist under FPA Section 21, because the Mill Ruins Park was established as a public park prior to the date of the enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The Commission’s determination was based solely upon a letter provided to the Commission by the Park Board staff dated August 18, 2003. Crown Hydro is currently reviewing the documents cited in that letter, as well as other relevant documents and local and state law, in order to determine whether the Mill Ruins parkland was acquired and made a “part of or included within any public park,… under State or local law” prior to the date of the enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (October 24, 1992). If the facts and law demonstrate that the Cataract Mill site was not within a public park under State or local law prior to this date, Crown Hydro will likely seek to exercise its eminent domain rights within the parameters of Section 21.

Crown Hydro has also contacted Northern States Power Company d/b/a Xcel Energy regarding the prospect of developing the project at Xcel Energy’s hydroelectric facilities across the Mississippi River. As we previously indicated, Crown Hydro has a twenty (20) year power purchase agreement with Xcel Energy. In addition, Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund has invested approximately $1.4 million in the Crown Hydro project. Crown Hydro expects these discussions to begin in the immediate future.

Finally, Crown Hydro is examining the feasibility of developing the project on the original site, the Crown Roller Building, which was the site approved by the Commission in the license issued on March 19, 1999. It is Crown Hydro’s intent to make this determination as soon as possible, and if necessary, acquire the Crown Roller Mill Building for project.

In our correspondence dated May 28, 2004, we requested that the Commission delay action on the petition for amendment to the license pending review of all these options and the prospect of continued project development. Crown Hydro, the Commission staff and many other stakeholders have invested a great deal of time and substantial resources in this project. Crown Hydro firmly believes that the project can be completed. Crown Hydro is committed to proceeding expediously and to continue to advise the Commission of the status of project. For these reasons, Crown Hydro would respectfully request that the Commission delay any action on the petition for an amendment to its existing license for at least ninety (90) days from June 11, 2004. Crown Hydro thanks the Commission for its consideration.

Very truly yours,
Peter H. Grills

Above text was computer generated from the original letter using optical character recognition and may contain errors. The original document can be viewed here: fileID=10168290