With high hopes and great fanfare, Cameroonian community leaders in the Twin Cities pooled their resources in late 2013 and purchased a 57,000-square-foot, two-level office building in St. Paul’s Bandana Square for the price advantage of $200,000. .
It was a bargain by any stretch of the imagination. The future MinCam community center near Energy Park Drive had an estimated market value of $3 million, at least on paper, though it came with a requirement that the association pay about $100,000 in unpaid property taxes .
But the community center is plagued with infighting and dysfunction, involving lawsuits and public accusations of mismanagement.
Last week, officials from the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that they had entered the fray as the state’s charities regulator.
The Attorney General’s new 16-page “termination assurance” agreement, signed by a Minnesota Cameroon community representative and filed in Ramsey County District Court, aims to hold the association accountable for “the inattention and breaches of governance” that have “allowed this important community asset to fall into disrepair,” according to a statement from Ellison’s office.
According to documents from the attorney general’s office, the property tax debt soared to $172,000. A broken boiler has been left unattended for months, causing what some fear is irreparable damage to the building over the course of a winter. The water pipes burst in February 2021. The building’s property insurance expired in 2017 and energy bills have increased.
According to the attorney general’s office, leaders of community centers cannot account for all the funds collected for the payment of property taxes and the repair of buildings. Questions about who really runs MinCam — its board, president, representative assembly, general assembly, or community center leadership team — erupted into a legal dispute over who had the right to convene meetings. elections in the summer of 2020.
Among the requirements imposed under the agreement with the attorney general’s office, MinCam cannot solicit further donations without first registering as a charity with the attorney general’s office, which executives had not done.
MinCam needs to restructure its leadership so that a single board controls the activities and affairs of the organization. It must also maintain and comply with internal financial management practices developed in consultation with professionals and adopt a policy on conflicts of interest, whistleblowing and document retention.
“The directors and officers of MCC are further required to keep all books and records of the organization properly and to adopt policies to ensure that funds are properly expended for the purposes for which they were granted,” it reads. in a statement from Ellison’s office.
A request for comment was not returned by an attorney for MinCam on Friday. The phone number listed for the community center was out of service on Friday.