Just days before DFL caucusing begins for Minneapolis City Council elections, Charles Carlson — University of Minnesota student and Minnesota representative at the Democratic National Convention — said he will announce Monday his withdrawal from the Ward 2 councilmember race following a series of lies regarding his past and his qualifications.
An investigation by The Minnesota Daily found that Carlson lied on several occasions concerning items such as his college education at Princeton University and where he grew up.
Carlson, who speaks with an English accent, previously claimed he grew up in Ramsgate, England, but admitted recently that he grew up in the United States.
The Daily confirmed that Carlson attended elementary school, middle schools and high schools throughout Minnesota, including Northfield High School, where a former classmate said Carlson did not have an accent. Also, the classmate did not have any knowledge of Carlson previously living in England.
In a Feb. 1 Daily article, Carlson said his English background would help him connect with the 2nd Ward’s immigrant population.
Carlson also provided the Daily with two fraudulent transcripts to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Princeton University. These schools, along with two other English schools he claimed to have attended, had no record of Carlson.
Carlson said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia affective disorder, which impacts an individual’s ability to accurately judge reality. Although he said he did not know whether it has affected his perception, he admitted in a recent interview to making false claims in an attempt to hide a “messy past,” which Carlson said included two years in a mental institution.
“I spent six years being a gay nothing that people just made fun of, and then when I was discharged I found out that people would believe anything you told them,” he said. “And in an effort to substantiate who I am, to be something, I went too far.”
In a recent Daily interview, Carlson apologized for lying during his campaign.
“This campaign was never about me, it was really about the fact that I felt students were being neglected,” Carlson said. “I’m very sorry for not being honest.”
Carlson did participate in a Junior Statesman Summer School program in 2003 at Princeton University, Jeff Harris, executive director of the program, said. But the pressure of the program caused a mental breakdown, Carlson said.
Public records show that an attempt to commit Carlson to a mental institution was made just after his 18th birthday in December 2003, but was dismissed two months later.
Before the case was dismissed, a district court in Rice County, Minn., appointed Carlson a Guardian of the Person, which gives them the same rights and duties as a parent over a minor.
Carlson provided the Daily with court documents that state he was appointed a guardian because he was diagnosed with schizophrenic affective disorder and was unable to take care of himself.
A November 2005 letter from the South Central Human Relations Center, a mental health service provider in Owatonna, Minn., stated that Carlson had been under its care since February 2004, and recommended that his right to care for himself be restored.
Since that time, Carlson attended the DNC as an at-large delegate for Minnesota and has been taking classes at the University of Minnesota since spring 2007, according to Onestop Services.
Carlson said he lied about his past to Daily reporters because he was afraid people would not consider him a feasible candidate.
“The motivation behind my running is that I’m seeing a lot of injustices on campus, and it’s difficult to run a campaign when people don’t consider you viable,” he said. “In an attempt to make my campaign viable, I didn’t want to risk anything.”
Carlson said he is leaving the race because he was offered a job officiating tennis and will have to travel for the position.
Judy Grundstrom, a close friend of Carlson’s and managing principal at Inland Office for Tomorrow’s Architecture, where Carlson has worked, said she was unaware that Carlson did not grow up in England, nor that he had a history of mental illness.
“I’ve known Charles since April and I’ve always been aware that there is something going on with him and … he doesn’t have a lot of people in his life and that I should try and help him,” she said. “I do care about him.”
Carlson said he has already spoken with Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon about his concerns for the city and his plans to withdraw from the race.
Gordon said he preferred to not comment about Carlson’s withdrawal.
Other false claims
In a Sept. 2008 article titled, “Minnesota Represented at DNC by U student delegate,” Carlson stated that he officiated tennis at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On Saturday Carlson admitted this claim is false.
Carlson also stated that he had a personal connection to Sen. Hillary Clinton that dated back to his childhood spent in England, where Clinton shared a crème brûlée torte with him. Carlson said this story is not true.
Carlson said he worked as a communications director on the Hillary Clinton campaign, but the Daily was not able to confirm this independently.
—Staff reporter Tiffany Smith contributed to this story.