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This Star Tribune article isn’t stunning from the perspective that people generally don’t worry how they spend other people’s money. It’s startling from the perspective that Gov. Dayton didn’t have a clue about this. First, here’s what the Star Tribune is reporting:

Leaders of a Minneapolis nonprofit that serves low-income residents used taxpayer money to pay for a celebrity cruise and trips to Palm Beach and the Bahamas, according to a recently completed state audit.

Along with the trips, the audit by the state Department of Human Services found that the nonprofit’s leaders spent public money on bonuses, golf, spa treatments, furniture, alcohol and even a personal car loan.

The audit concluded that the organization’s longtime chief executive, Bill Davis, misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2011 to 2013.

I’m not a prosecutor but I’ve got to think that it’s illegal to use taxpayer money to make payments on a personal car loan. It isn’t that I think that the other things listed are good governance. It’s just that I think there might be a semi-plausible explanation for some of the things listed. This part jumps off the page at me:

Davis said his group, Community Action of Minneapolis, sent the state 112 pages of information in early September challenging some of the audit’s findings. He said in an interview that information has been “totally ignored” in the final report.

“I’ve been here for 24 years,” Davis said. “I’m well aware of my responsibilities. I wouldn’t be elected to national boards if I was doing things I shouldn’t be doing.”

Let’s look at that last statement about being “elected to national boards” if he was doing things he shouldn’t have been doing. Of course he would. That wouldn’t matter to people swimming in the same cesspool. They’re cronies who think that they’re entitled to the perks. In this instance, Mr. Davis went too far.

This part is jaw-dropping stunning:

Auditors blamed Community Action’s board, which includes several well-known politicians and community leaders, for a lack of oversight and for personally benefiting from $34,892 worth of activities that “do not appear to serve a business purpose, and are considered waste and abuse as defined in state policy.”

Those activities included two weekend trips, between 2011 and 2013, to Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, where board members and senior management spent $9,000 for lodging, $3,200 for food and $900 for spas.

Davis defended the trips as a “small gesture on our part to offer them a moment of relaxation or entertainment. It’s not like we do this every single week of the year.”

Spending $13,100 isn’t a “small gesture on our part.” That’s spending lavishly and/or extravagantly. Other than identifying that fact, I’d like to know what Community Action of Minneapolis’s employees did to justify this lavish spending.

Our taxes are paying for a significant portion of Community Action’s budget:

Community Action had an $11 million budget in fiscal year 2011, with over half of its revenue coming from government grants. The audit’s findings put Community Action at risk of losing at least $2.8 million in aid.

Initially, Mark Dayton responded to Jeff Johnson’s call for an extensive audit of NPOs by saying “The decades-old accusation that Minnesota government recklessly wastes money on people who are poor, sick, or elderly is unfair and unfounded.” Now that the facts are out, Gov. Dayton is singing a different tune:

Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday said that a Star Tribune report of a nonprofit using state funds to subsidize cruises, a director’s car lease and spa treatments was very concerning and alarming. “I was personally really appalled,” Dayton said. “I take it very seriously.”

Now that it’s been proven that Community Action of Minneapolis spent taxpayers’ money foolishly, Gov. Dayton is backtracking. Fast. We don’t need a governor who takes things seriously after the fact. What’s needed is someone who takes steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

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