A video released yesterday by Hennepin County has elicited a complaint from mayoral candidate Cam Winton.
The video celebrates the accomplishments of the county’s Community Works Department, most notably the popular Midtown Greenway.
Former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew, who is also running for mayor, figures prominently in the video.
“Intentional or no, the County’s action strongly appears to be a use of taxpayer funds for a partisan purpose, i.e., supporting Mr. Andrew’s candidacy by promoting his signature intiative at an essential time in the campaign,” Winton wrote in an e-mail today to State Auditor Rebecca Otto.
He has asked Otto to look into why the video was released less than three weeks before the election.
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, an Andrew supporter, is also featured in the video. His office says it was intended to mark the 20th anniversary of the Community Works department, which traces its roots to an August 1993 joint meeting of the county board, the Minneapolis City Council and several other elected bodies.
The video makes no mention of that meeting, although Andrew, who was then chair of the county board, convened it. Ground wasn’t broken on the Greenway, itself, for another five years.
McLaughlin, whose aide was part of the the committee that developed the video, says there was no political motivation.
“It was Mark’s initiative. There’s no way you can tell the story of the creation of Community Works 20 years ago without him.” McLaughlin said. “It would be like trying to tell the story of the Ark and leaving out Noah.”
The county’s Public Affairs department says it would be impossible to calculate the cost of producing the video. One staff person worked on it for about a month while also juggling other projects, Public Affairs Director Carolyn Marinan said.
The video has been viewed about 400 times on YouTube. Ironically, Winton’s complaint will probably result in more people seeing it.