Minneapolis commissioner addresses fraud accusations in safety initiative

Accusations of fraud, waste, and mismanagement have been leveled against the Minneapolis Department of Neighborhood Safety.

Commissioner Todd Barnette says he was these claims during a committee meeting on Monday. In a sit-down interview with FOX 9's Karen Scullin, Commissioner Barnette discussed the concerns, which he says he does not take lightly.

"Some of these concerns include allegations of fraud and abuse... but the concerns are racking up faster than they can be addressed," said Minneapolis City Council Member Robin Wonsley.

Commissioner Barnette was blindsided by the accusations, as he gave a presentation on restructuring the Department of Neighborhood Safety.

"I was surprised by those allegations. They are so serious that, as a former judge and attorney, if an individual proved they were not true, and sues for defamation, that’s how serious those accusations are," he noted.

Barnette believes if you have concerns, you have a conversation.

Barnette says he has now have discussions with some council members on the allegations -- but hasn't spoken with Council Member Wonsley.

Community Safety Commissioner Todd Barnette (FOX 9)

Barnette mentioned that his appearance at Monday’s committee meeting was to outline a plan for improvements, emphasizing that change takes time. He has only been in his role for six months, with the new director serving for eight months. Part of the process is changing the reporting process for groups that are funded, like the violence interrupters, admitting there has been a lack of accountability on their spending.

Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw from Ward 4 raised concerns about financial practices. "I’ve also heard people who get contract funding are misusing money," she stated.

In response, Barnette stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility. "We want to be fiscally responsible to the residents and to the council and to the mayor about how we’re distributing funds," he stated.

Despite the criticisms, Barnette says he is not upset with Wonsley's accusations. "Mayor Frey is my boss. When Mayor Frey says something to me, I need to be concerned more than anybody else," he remarked.

Barnette told FOX 9 the city is in talks with an outside group to look at the funding groups, to identify overlap, and if Neighborhood Safety is operating as efficiently and smoothly as possible. Wonsley has requested an audit of the department, though there is no timeline for its completion.