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Legislative Audit Commission Meeting

Minutes

May 20, 2009

Members Present:

Representative Michael Beard Senator Ann H. Rest
Representative Rick Hansen Senator Claire Robling
Representative Ron Shimanski  
Representative Steve Simon  

Members Absent:

Representative Bill Hilty Senator Don Betzold
Representative Mary Liz Holberg Senator Joe Gimse
  Senator David Hann
  Senator James Metzen

Other Legislators Present:

Senator Mee Moua
Senator Linda Higgins

 

Senator Ann Rest, Chair, called the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) meeting to order at 11:02 a.m.  Senator Rest noted that the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mee Moua, was joining the commission.  The purpose of the meeting was to release the special review, Metro Gang Strike Force.

Senator Rest introduced Jim Nobles, Legislative Auditor.  Mr. Nobles said that in 2005, the Legislature dissolved the Minnesota Gang Strike Force and created a state level Gang and Drug Oversight Council with authority to establish and monitor multiple jurisdictional strike forces across the state.  The 2005 legislation specifically mandated for the creation of a task force in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area and the St. Cloud metropolitan area.  Mr. Nobles clarified that the special review focused only on the Metro Gang Strike Force in the Twin Cities.  He said that there were concerns about whether assets, specifically cash, had been properly deposited and secured.  Mr. Nobles said that this special review was not conducted as an investigation against individuals; however, he said that there might be grounds for a follow-up investigation to occur.  Mr. Nobles said that the OLA overall concluded that the Strike Force’s internal controls were not adequate to ensure that it seized and safeguarded property and found that the Strike Force did not comply with certain important legal requirements in the process of seizing assets from individuals.  He said that the OLA was not able to account for some of the cash or cars that were seized.  Mr. Nobles introduced Cecile Ferkul, Deputy Legislative Auditor of the Financial Audit Division.  Ms. Ferkul said that the review looked at internal controls and legal compliance over forfeiture receipts and expenditures, local checking account activity, and seized and forfeited property.  She said the report contained 11 findings, and she proceeded to go through each of those findings and answered the members’ questions.  The key findings of the review were that the Metro Gang Strike Force 1) did not develop basic internal controls to ensure that it properly safeguarded or accounted for all seized cash, seized or forfeited vehicles, or other seized property; 2) did not adequately segregate key duties over its local checking accounts or properly use confidential informant funds; 3) used significant resources to send six officers to a conference in Hawaii without required prior approval from the board; 4) frequently did not follow the state’s statutory forfeiture procedures; and 5) did not distribute forfeited money and proceeds from the sale of forfeited property in compliance with statutory requirements.  Ms. Ferkul said that the Metro Gang Strike Force was unable to account for at least $18,126 of seized cash and could not locate 13 of the 80 vehicles forfeited between August 2005 and October 2008. 

Senator Rest welcomed Chief Manila Shaver, Chair of the Metro Gang Strike Force Advisory Board and Chief of the West St. Paul Police Department.  Chief Shaver said that he’s been part of the Metro Gang Strike Force since 2006.  He said that the findings are not a large surprise to him, but the depth of them are a concern and that they take them very seriously.  Chief Shaver said he plans to use the OLA report to move forward in correcting the issues so that they can get on with fighting gangs.  In response to Representative Simon, Chief Shaver said that he does not feel there are any conflicts between the advisory board and the oversight council.  Senator Rest invited Commissioner Michael Campion, Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, to address the commission.  Mr. Campion said that since its inception, the Metro Gang Strike Force has seized millions of dollars and the crime rate in Minneapolis has gone down.  Mr. Campion said that he is going to address the Advisory Board next Wednesday and ask them to suspend the operations of the Strike Force.  He said he is planning to bring in two individuals, a former federal prosecutor and a retired FBI special agent, to help him implement the recommendations made by the OLA.  Mr. Campion said the goal is to review, reorganize, and reinstate the Strike Force within 30 days because more gang activity occurs during the warm summer months.

Senator Rest thanked Commissioner Campion and Chief Shaver for coming to the meeting, and also Mr. Nobles and Ms. Ferkul for their work.  With no further discussion or comments, the meeting was adjourned at 12:49 p.m.

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Senator Ann H. Rest, Chair

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Shelly Watterud, Recording Secretary

 

Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155