On Saturday, June 13, the Star Tribune published an editorial acknowledging the Office of the Legislative Auditor issued the Minneapolis Urban League a “financial clean bill of health” related to allegations it improperly billed the state for two of its education programs. The editorial calls for continued support of MUL programs and initiatives. The OLA’s findings were first published on June 5 in an article by Star Tribune reporter Steve Brandt.
This was a manufactured controversy, from our perspective, resulting from inaccurate and indolent reporting of Star Tribune writer Alexandra Matos who wrote several stories alleging improper billing but was unavailable to report the news the Legislative Auditor had cleared MUL.
For many contemporary media outlets, like the Star Tribune, the distinction between news and editorial content increasingly has become blurred. Nonetheless, we acknowledge and appreciate the Star Tribune editorial board’s decision to make the OLA’s findings known to its readership, and by extension, MUL’s constituents and supporters.
Excerpt from Star Tribune Editorial published June 13th
League cleared in finance report
The Minneapolis Urban League did not improperly double-bill for two education programs it operated, according to a review by the state’s legislative auditor. That is welcome affirmation for the nearly 90-year-old agency and should encourage continued support for its successful programs.
A financial clean bill of health for the two programs came seven weeks after a Star Tribune news report about state education and Minneapolis Public Schools officials who were looking into whether MUL was getting paid twice for the same work. Concerns were raised about whether a school-district-funded alternative high school and a state-funded program called the 13th Grade were serving some of the same students.
Late last week, the league released a letter from the Office of the Legislative Auditor confirming its assertion that no improper billing had occurred. The audit director said monies were properly allocated between the two separately funded programs.
It is good that the auditor review was expedited so that the agency can continue fundraising and community work — without a cloud of financial mix-ups over its head. For decades, the organization has been a leader in improving the lives of people of color. Its mission continues to link African descendants and other people of color to opportunities that result in “economic success and prosperity” and to advocate for ending racial disparities.
Since the allegations surfaced, the league closed the Urban League Academy high school after a several-decade partnership with the Minneapolis schools. The academy had been an alternative contract program for the district. Its last class graduated on June 1, and the remaining students will be placed in other public schools in the fall.
Urban League leaders said the closing had nothing to do with the recent financial scrutiny. But funding from the district was not keeping pace with increasing costs.
The league is out of the high school business for now, but with its deep roots and history of service, it continues other community-building initiatives that deserve ongoing support.