Monthly Archives: November 2008



(See two additional documents attached at bottom this post)

A little over a year-and-a-half after the Parade Sports Complex fiasco, Park Watch has discovered that Park Board staff have been spending time and money on another covert project. This one is located on the south shore of Lake Calhoun and sounds suspiciously like a sailing village revision. Staff have been entering into secret contracts that have been moving the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking and Plaza project toward implementation without the knowledge and consent of the Park Board commissioners. The $350,000 project is the first phase of a multiphase project.

This unexpected discovery of another secret scheme prompted two open time speeches at the November 19, 2008, Park Board meeting, posted below. We are also adding a link to a letter from the consultant to the Park Board and the September 8, 2008, agreement with the consultant for “preparation of construction documents for phase one of the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking and Plaza project.”

Open Letter to the Park Board Commissioners
November 19, 2008

Over the past several sessions, we have listened to the recommended budget for 2009 and have heard how difficult it will be to maintain our current park system with the amount of money allocated to us by the state and local governments. We have also heard discussed how we must be judicious about where we put additional dollars into infrastructure that we know will be increasingly difficult for us to maintain. So imagine my surprise to find that a project is on the immediate horizon for the south shore of Lake Calhoun.

According to Park Board documents, Hoisington Koegler has been contracted to prepare construction documents for phase one of the Lake Calhoun South Shore Parking and Plaza project. This construction package has a contract price tag of $47,200 so it was not subject to board approval. However, according to the documents, Phase One ALONE of this project is expected to cost about $350,000. As I scoured the 2009 budget, I could find no reference to this project. And, if the capital budget is being detailed in January and February, doesn’t it seem odd that a project of this impending magnitude not be on the board’s radar at all? And if this is Phase One, doesn’t that imply a Phase Two, Three, etc – and what might be the cost of those phases?

I have so many concerns about this project that I am not sure where to start. It leads me to believe that we might be in the position of being “paraded” again – that is, having the staff get out so far in front of the commissioners that it seems as if the staff is running the Park Board and not the officials elected by the taxpayers.

First, I would ask that you halt this project until it is clearly a “board-driven” project and not a “staff-driven” project.

Second, I would ask that you institute some controls to ensure that you are made aware of all potential projects. For example, you may want to receive a monthly report listing all contracts of $50,000 and under so you have visibility into those projects. I have many other thoughts, too numerous to mention in a few minutes, but that is probably the bookkeeper in me surfacing!

Please understand that the citizens of Minneapolis value their parks and want to work with you to ensure that there is enough funding to maintain our system. But we have elected you to represent us and set priorities for this Park System. In these tough financial times, we want to ensure that the decisions are being made by those who are accountable to us – the elected board members.

Thank you.

Anita Tabb
Lowry Hill



Here we are again, expressing concern about another staff-driven project being developed and implemented in secrecy without the knowledge or consent of our elected officials–you, our Park Board commissioners.

What is unacceptable is that the Park Board’s administrative staff has developed this bad habit of advancing projects in secrecy. Other examples of stealth projects that have caused public concern are

*The $50M sports complex at Parade and the unauthorized road that came very close to construction.

*The two Flatiron leases that never came before the Board for the Board’s consent and the president’s signature.

*The unauthorized two hundred and five thousand dollar ($205,000) promise of subsidies to SkipperLiner Industries.

*And now the $350,000 first phase of a multiphase development project on the shores of Lake Calhoun, where citizens fought off another development not very long ago.

Again the Park Board’s administrative staff have overstepped their boundaries and are making decisions that are not theirs to make. It is our expectation that our elected officials, with citizen input, make the decisions about whether a $50M sports complex and new road at Parade would have made sense, if we wanted and were prepared to plan and budget for a large development at Lake Calhoun and how the Flatiron proceeds should be spent.

It is our hope that you, the commissioners, will take the necessary steps to protect your authority from further erosion.

Thank you.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch


THE $205,000 LUNCH

THE $205,000 LUNCH

THE STORY’S BACKGROUND: MPRB’s General Manager Don Siggelkow is attempting to divert $150,000 of the proceeds from the Park Board’s Bohemian Flats’ lease with Flatiron-Manson to the owner of SkipperLiner Industries, Inc. for the benefit of its excursion-charter boat business, which is operated by Paradise Charters and uses Park Board property to board and dock their two boats. The Park Board receives 5% of gross for this arrangement which has never been very lucrative for the Park Board.

Siggelkow has been working on this (sweetheart?) deal since February of this year, but the only time it has been mentioned to the commissioners and the public was in an untelevised Park Board study session on October 20, 2008, at the Wirth Chalet.

Here is the story as revealed in a series of Park Board e-mails and other documents obtained by Park Watch from the Park Board through the data practices act.

The story begins on FEBRUARY 7, 2008, with an e-mail to Flatiron from Park Board staff. Flatiron-Manson is attempting to lease Bohemian Flats, which it needed for the 35W Bridge reconstruction. The first mention of SkipperLiner appears in this e-mail: “The docks that are attached to the wall on the river are part of our boat-cruise vendor’s operation and belong to them. They have not been able to operate as expected since the bridge came down and have lost revenue. They are looking to be made whole.”

On MARCH 15, Flatiron sends an e-mail to Park Board staff protesting an inflated fee of $153,340 that Park Board staff is pressuring Flatiron to pay for the four months that Flatiron needs the land: “I do not think Flatiron Manson JV should be paying for MnDot / Park Board agreements that do not have any value.”

Park Board staff replies to Flatiron: “The permit fee is also based on additional costs associated with the Skipper Line (sic) lease.”

And Flatiron shoots back: “I understand the hope to compensate the Skipper Line (sic), but we are the ones that are making it (the bridge) possible not the ones to pay extra to help them as it should be MnDot not FMJV.”

On MARCH 21, Park Board staff acknowledges the Flatiron e-mail and accuses Flatiron of trespassing: “I have observed that Flatiron Manson has equipment and personnel located on Bohemian Flats Park. We do not have a signed agreement with you at this point in time.

“This email is official notice to you to vacate the premises immediately. Remove all equipment and personnel. Your actions of placing equipment and personnel prior to our negotiated agreement may affect the standing with your existing Limited Use Permit for 1900 Bluff Street.

“This email is copied to our Chief of Police.”

On MARCH 25, 2008, Flatiron, needing to move forward with the bridge reconstruction, capitulates and the Park Board lease is signed for $153,340. But not until after park policemen pay Flatiron a visit. In a September 13, 2007, Star Tribune article about the 35W Bridge construction, a Flatiron official was quoted as saying “park police arrived on the property and informed Flatiron ‘about stopping all work and moving away from the site.’ ”

On APRIL 8, 2008, Don Siggelkow and Superintendent Jon Gurban sign a second lease. (The second lease is identical to the first lease with the exception of one clause.)

Also on APRIL 8, 2008, Don Siggelkow, with Park Board employee Steve Buchal, has lunch with Dan Nelson from SkipperLiner and Dave Lawrence from Paradise Charter Cruises. According to a memo of understanding to Siggelkow and Steve Buchal from SkipperLiner recapping the meeting, a $205,000 promise to SkipperLiner was made over lunch by Don Siggelkow.

Here is the first relevant paragraph from the memo: “Understanding that the Park Board secured a check in the amount of $150,000 from the Flat Iron Company, the Parkboard has agreed to utilize those funds for repairs and enhancements to our Boom Island office and dockage facility. In addition, the Parkboard agreed to contact a tent vendor and install the tent at our dockage site – see Dave Lawrence for location. Any improvements, repairs, or tent requirements and expenses are the sole responsibility of the Minneapolis Parkboard.”

Here is the second relevant paragraph from the memo: “Minneapolis parkboard indicated that there is an approximate past due balance in the amount of $20,000 that is due for dockage considerations. In addition, our 2008 dockage cost will be $35,000. Don has agreed to waive these two fees via permission from the Minneapolis Parkboard. This consideration offsets expenses that Dave Lawrence has accrued since the bridge accident.”

It is important to note that Siggelkow was not authorized by the Park Board to make the promises that he did.

The representation about the Park Board having agreed “to utilize those funds for repairs and enhancements to our Boom Island office and dockage facility” is not correct.

On APRIL 18, Siggelkow, with Park Board employee Nick Eoloff, meets again for lunch with Dan Nelson and Dave Lawrence. According to a follow-up memo from SkipperLiner to the Park Board, there was a conversation about a “dredging issue.” And in conclusion, Dan Nelson expresses his gratitude for Siggelkow’s $205,000 worth of promises. He is quoted as saying, “Don, you are the king!”

On JULY 16, an e-mail from Nick Eoloff to Siggelkow states that the dredging of Boom Island for the charter boat’s move to Boom Island “will cost upwards of $100,000.”

Five minutes later Siggelkow shoots off a memo to Dave Lawrence: “Dave, just so you know how much this is going to take out of the proceeds from Flatiron. Let me know if you have concerns.”

And what about the concerns of the taxpayers? If SkipperLiner wants to permanently relocate its charter boat from Bohemian Flats to Boom Island, the Park Board and the taxpayer should not be footing the bill for the costs associated with the move.

What is curious about all of this is that Siggelkow has not, in all of these months, brought the two Flatiron contracts or his $205,000 SkipperLiner promise to a Planning Committee meeting for Board consideration and authorization. Both of these matters–the contracts and the promise–occurred out of the boardroom, off-camera, under the radar and without direction of the commissioners. Siggelkow exceeded his authority and violated Park Board procedures when he promised SkipperLiner Park Board gifts totalling $205,000.

FOLLOW THE MONEY. Park Watch first learned of the controversial Bohemian Flats lease in June and since then has been watching the story evolve. On JULY 23, Park Watch submitted a request to the Park Board for information which would document any proof of claims for losses by SkipperLiner or Paradise Charter Cruises as a result of the bridge collapse. Park Watch wanted to see the evidence supporting the Park Board staff’s stated efforts to “make SkipperLiner whole.”

On AUGUST 1, the Park Board responded: “There is no data responsive to Data Practices Request AAA158 – All data (correspondence, etc.) regarding Paradise Charter Cruises’ losses incurred as a result of the I-35 Bridge collapse, and any subsequent claims made by Paradise Charter Cruises as a result of the bridge collapse.” So Park Board staff had no basis for the claims it was making to Flatiron about SkipperLiner’s losses.

However, in an OCTOBER 16 memo to the commissioners titled “Excursion Boat Operator Agreement,” Siggelkow briefly refers to “discussions” with SkipperLiner about amending their agreement and reducing their payments to the Park Board as “investments at Boom Island.” It has been six months since Siggelkow’s $205,000 luncheon promise to SkipperLiner and this is the first time SkipperLiner is mentioned at a Park Board meeting.

At a time when the cash-strapped Park Board needs every penny it can get just to maintain what it already has, at a time when it is cutting back on stump removal and on all park maintenance, Siggelkow wants not only to use the $150,000 from Flatiron’s Bohemian Flats’ lease to benefit a private charter boat business, but also to waive the $55,000 that the company owes the Park Board.

He concludes the memo with: “We would like to settle the amendment without litigation. We will be providing the Board with a proposed amendment to the agreement in conjunction with the 2009 budget adoption.”

The threat of litigation is nonsense. There is no basis for litigation. There has been no proof of claims for losses submitted to the Park Board because there are none.

If any losses had been sustained, they should have been covered by business interruption insurance which is a standard business practice–and not the Park Board or Flatiron.

The Park Board and the taxpayer should not be subsidizing a private business. And certainly not with the Flatiron proceeds, which–as the result of such a tragic accident–should be used for something significantly more meaningful than private subsidies.

MPRB Board Meeting

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Commissisoners Meeting Commissioners Walt Dziedzic, Bob Fine, Carol Kummer, Mary Merrill Anderson, Tracy Nordstrom, Jon Olson, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young and President Tom Nordyke. Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Comcast cable network Channel 14 and online on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel. Date 12/17/2008 Time: 5:00-8:00 p.m. Type: Regular Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255 Address: 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis

Park Board Agenda

MPRB Board Meeting

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Commissisoners Meeting Commissioners Walt Dziedzic, Bob Fine, Carol Kummer, Mary Merrill Anderson, Tracy Nordstrom, Jon Olson, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young and President Tom Nordyke. Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the Minneapolis Comcast cable network Channel 14 and online on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel. Date 12/03/2008 Time: 5:00-8:00 p.m. Type: Regular Location: MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255 Address: 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis

Park Board Agenda


Some highlights:

REGULAR MEETING at 5:00 P.M. There is a short agenda, which will probably move quickly.


PLANNING COMMITTEE. Immediately following the regular meeting.

ADMINISTRATION & FINANCE. There will be a Board review of the Superintendent’s 2009 Recommended Budget. There also will be an opportunity for Public Input on the budget. Look for the sign-up sheet by the door. Time for this meeting is uncertain as “Sometime after the regular meeting and after the Planning Committee meeting.”

The Board meeting and committee meetings will be held at Park Board Headquarters, at 2117 West River Road, in the board room on the second floor.

The meeting will be broadcast live on cable 14 from 5 to 9 P.M. and on the web at

The complete agenda is usually available Monday or Tuesday on the Park Board’s website.

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch