Lawsuit alleges Minneapolis ‘arbitrarily’ and ‘illegally’ awarded funds for violence prevention programs

A lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis alleges the city has “illegally” awarded contracts related to violence prevention programs and stonewalled the plaintiff behind the litigation on multiple public records requests.

According to a civil complaint, Zachary Coppola, an attorney and resident of the city, became concerned about how the city was awarding millions of dollars in contracts to violence prevention programs in the wake of the “Feeding Our Future” scandal.

SEE ALSO: Complete coverage of Feeding Our Future

The complaint says Coppola began filing several requests under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, seeking information about how the city was awarding these various contracts. It’s alleged the city has not provided all the information requested in five separate public records requests.

The lawsuit also alleges the city “has improperly, arbitrarily and capriciously – and therefore illegally – awarded significant public funds to violence prevention programs.”

The Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office sent 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS this statement in response to the litigation:

While the City is still reviewing the verbose Complaint, it is clear that it is not alleging that the City engaged in any sort of criminal behavior. Rather, the Complaint alleges the City engaged in an “arbitrary and capricious” procurement process and cites various alleged conflicts of interest – many of which are subjective and are not actual conflicts of interest in a government procurement process. Grants are lawfully awarded to organizations that have proven to do good and well-connected work in the community. Oftentimes, those organizations are run by leaders that have deep ties to the community, and many times work for various community-facing entities. There’s nothing criminal or illegal about that.

The complaint states that some of these organizations are improperly using federal funds, as some that have received funding from the city engage in lobbying or political activity.

“Not only do the two organizations…have a history of lobbying, but both have conducted consulting related to voter registration,” the lawsuit notes, adding, “use of federal funds for this purpose is illegal.”

The lawsuit is asking the courts to intervene by stopping the current projects and have the city rebid them “under a competitive procurement process” and compel the city to comply and turn over all remaining information requested under the Data Practices Act. It’s also seeking reimbursement for attorney’s fees.

Read the civil complaint below or by clicking here.