Minnehaha Creek Watershed District board member calls fraud claims 'baseless'

 A Minnehaha Creek Watershed District board member is being accused of fraud, while he maintains there's no base to those claims.

On the banks of Minnehaha Creek, change is in the air. While chirping birds and ice melting are sure signs of spring, another story seems like it was pulled from a bad soap opera. Embezzlement, backstabbing and conflicts of interest are just a few allegations washing downstream at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

"Over the last year or so it has become dysfunctional, or at least has manifested a great deal of dysfunctionality," attorney Marshall Tanick said.

Tanick represents Eric Evenson, the former district administrator who was fired last spring. Why?

"Well no one is really sure," Tanick said. "At least the people talking about it aren't sure. No specific reason was given to Eric."

Evenson's firing was only the start. This past February, a police report contained allegations that board member Jeff Cassele was using district funds for personal gain. Senior board member Pam Blixt said she has been caught in the middle, and believes Cassele's time is up.

"I think it is time for him to be removed, yes," she said.

Cassele apparently does not intend to leave and asked to be reappointed while speaking before the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. Commissioners interviewed applicants for the Watershed District board and are expected to appoint two members from 11 applicants on March 17.

Meanwhile, Cassele told Fox 9 the claims against him are "baseless."

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Statement

"The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is aware of the fact that allegations were filed with the Minnetonka Police Department and its independent investigation has yielded its own report. The former interim administrator also had district legal counsel review the matter, which concluded that there were no violations of law or district governance policies. While there have been disagreements among the board and some members of the community since the termination of the former district administrator last April, the board did authorize a national search process that resulted in the successful hiring of a new full-time administrator. The District is fully engaged with cities and other stakeholders in its work to preserve, maintain, and improve the quality of water and the quality of life within the District."

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