Minneapolis Park Board interim leader feels attacked after questions on hiring of lobbyist

Minneapolis has a new leader of its Parks and Recreation Department inheriting a Board that is deeply divided after a Fox 9 Investigation into the hiring of a new consultant.

The new superintendent, Al Bangoura, spent 19 years working at the Park Board before taking a job to head up a park system in North Carolina.

Wednesday night's meeting started with two Commissioners asking pointed questions of interim Superintendent, Mary Merrill who hired Kendal Killian as an Intergovernmental Relations Consultant or lobbyist. 

“There has been corruption of the process and I need to articulate that to the people,” said Commissioner Meg Forney.


Killian, a well-known DFL political operative, is friends with and campaign contributor to new Park Board President Brad Bourn.

Killian also co-chaired the DFL coordinated campaign, which helped get a slate of new Park Board members elected. 

One of the other applicants for the consulting job told Fox 9 Bourn had the position wired for Killian.

Killian’s $114,000 a year contract was broken into two six-month terms, keeping it under $100,000 which meant it never came before the Park Board for a vote and was never part of a public hearing. 


“It is my understanding, if you read our minutes, that no such proposal was brought forward and instead an RFP was put out in the public to ask people to submit bids for this work,” said Park Board Commissioner, Steffanie Musich.

“I just want to note for the record I feel very abused and attacked,” said Merrill during the discussion.

Killian did have his defenders, including his former boss, Minneapolis City Council Member Linea Palmisano. Killian was her former policy aide.

"With the help of Kendal Killian I started having conversations with some of you and Park Board staff on what that better collaboration would be as one city working together,” she said.

Killian and Bourn also attended a fundraiser for Palmisano two weeks ago. Bourn spoke at the event. 

Carol Becker who sits on the Board of Estimation and Taxation, which determines the tax levy for the Park Board, said the hiring of Killian didn’t pass the smell test.

"You will want to protect your buddies. That this is going to become, who is your friend and you are going to protect your friend, because that is what you do right?

The Board voted on a measure Wednesday night to terminate Killian's consulting contract immediately.  That measure failed on a 5 to 3 vote. Bourn abstained from that vote. The current budget calls for making the consulting contract a permanent position. If that is approved, Killian would have to reapply for the job.