After six weeks of waiting for Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association to respond to a data practices request, property owner Jason Klohs has sued MHNA for violation of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
The data practices request, submitted in early October, sought data relating to MHNA’s expenditures under a contract with the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.
“We want to see how they’ve been handling their money,” Klohs said. “We believe they’re operating incorrectly and possibly against the law.”
Klohs’ attorney, Ryan Ahlberg, said evidence shows MHNA was spending NRP money on employee salaries.
“The state law that authorizes the NRP is specific about what NRP money can be spent on, and paying for the salaries of neighborhood organizers is not one of those things,” Ahlberg said.
Because MHNA is a nonprofit organization under contract with a government entity like the NRP, it would have to release information such as e-mails and written documents that fall under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
Klohs said he’s willing to drop the lawsuit if MHNA releases all pertinent data.
The lawsuit comes after Klohs and the MHNA failed to reach a settlement at a mediation session in October, conducted after Klohs’ attorney filed a formal grievance against MHNA’s bylaws. The bylaws restrict MHNA membership to residents, which Klohs said prevents him and other absentee landlords from having their voices heard.
“This would go away if we could be part of the neighborhood,” he said. “They could make a simple rule change and this would go away.”
MHNA President Arvonne Fraser, who was served the lawsuit papers Thursday night, declined to comment because she didn’t know what the situation was, she said. But she said MHNA “sent [Klohs] to NRP because it’s public information that’s available.”
Fraser also acknowledged that part of the issue is previous disagreements with Klohs over MHNA’s bylaws.
“You have to be a resident of the neighborhood because it’s a neighborhood association,” Fraser said.
“It’s like in elections,” she said. “If you’re going to vote in an election in the United States, you vote where you live.”
Fraser also suggested that the only way to settle the issue is if landlords live in the neighborhood. She said she doesn’t know what MHNA’s next steps will be besides working on getting an attorney Monday.
MHNA Executive Director Melissa Bean and Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Hofstede declined to comment on the issue.