Good morning, and welcome to a late spring Friday. Here’s the Digest.
1. St. Paul police chief fires five cops. St. Paul’s police chief fired five officers Thursday after an investigation found they did not intervene when a man assaulted patrons outside a bar. The assault happened last June outside a St. Paul bar and restaurant. It involved Tou Mo Cha, a former St. Paul police officer, according to a police department source. Cha resigned 14 years ago after he was accused of lending out his department-issued pistol, which someone then used to shoot into a restaurant and a house. Last December, Ramsey County prosecutors charged Tou Mo Cha with assault, saying he seriously injured a man outside a Payne-Phalen bar, Eastside Checkerboard Pizza, which he operates with his wife. He has pleaded not guilty. Police Chief Todd Axtell said the five officers responded to an incident and “while they were there, an individual assaulted other and the officers did not intervene.” Axtell did not say that the case involved Cha. He said state law currently limits him from providing additional details about what happened or from naming the officers. The internal affairs investigation remains open and the officers can appeal Axtell’s decision. (Pioneer Press)
2. New details on why Omar reviewed her tax returns. Depositions, correspondence and other records generated in a state board’s investigation into irregularities in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign spending provide extra details about how questions over the Democratic lawmaker’s tax filings were first raised and handled. Omar, a former DFL state legislator who now represents a Minneapolis district in Congress, has said little about the status of her 2014 and 2015 tax returns other than a campaign spokesman’s statement that her returns are “fully compliant with all applicable tax law.” She has not made the returns public or responded to the allegation that she improperly filed joint returns. An accounting firm hired by Omar’s 2016 state House campaign to review her financial filings discovered “something needed to be corrected/amended by Rep. Omar,” according to a letter sent to the state investigators. The firm obtained the couple’s tax forms with their consent through the IRS as part of a campaign research project into their candidate at a time of crisis. At the time, Omar’s campaign was working to counter reports on a conservative blog and later by mainstream publications about her marital status. “I was accused of being married to two people, so tax filings I’m guessing were a huge part of that,” Omar said in a sworn deposition last December when asked why her tax filings were being inspected. The deposition was released after the state investigation ended. (MPR News)
3. U of M Regents object to tuition increase. The University of Minnesota’s governing board is pushing back on President Eric Kaler’s proposal to raise Twin Cities undergraduate tuition by 2.5 percent, urging leaders to consider ways to limit that increase. Regents decried what they deemed an inadequate state funding hike this spring and voiced support for proposed employee pay increases. But some challenged the administration to offer scenarios that limit tuition increases for Minnesota undergraduates to 1.5% or 2%, perhaps by tapping rising revenue from investment interest on the U’s reserves. The regents tackled Kaler’s final $4 billion budget proposal Thursday, ahead of a vote slated for Wednesday next week. The administration has said that after lawmakers granted the U only half the funding increase it sought, tuition hikes of 2.5 percent in the Twin Cities and 1.5 percent on the U’s four other campuses are needed to pay for key investments, including a just more than 2 percent raise for employees. (Star Tribune)
4. Out of public eye EPA staffers faulted MPCA over PolyMet permit. Staff scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had serious concerns last year that the PolyMet copper-nickel mine might not be able to meet state and federal water quality standards under the Clean Water Act, according to documents released Thursday. The scientists’ comments were written more than a year ago in response to a key permit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued to PolyMet Mining. But they were never submitted. Instead, they were released this week as part of a Freedom of Information Act case an environmental group filed against the EPA in an attempt to make them public. In court filings, the St. Paul-based advocacy group WaterLegacy questioned whether the EPA comments had been suppressed as the MPCA developed the final water quality permit it eventually granted to PolyMet last December. WaterLegacy and Minnesota U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum applauded the documents’ release. (MPR News)
5. Older Minnesotans don’t use as much medical marijuana as younger people. Rosemary Johnson has three pill bottles in her refrigerator, each with different mixtures of THC and CBD — marijuana chemicals used in medicine. Johnson, 72, suffers from lupus, Sjogren’s, fibromyalgia and scoliosis. For the last year, she’s participated in the state’s medical marijuana program. But up until then, like many people in her age group, she’d never used marijuana. “I don’t even know if I even know what it smells like,” she said. “Because I never did drugs or anything like that when I was in high school in the 60s.” According to state statistics, Johnson’s age group — despite having the highest rate of prescribed drugs nationally — ranks third among regular users of medical marijuana as an age group. The latest statistics of active users of medical marijuana show that 32 percent of users are in the 50-64 age group; 27 percent are in the 36-49 age group; and 19 percent are in the 65-plus age group. There’s no hard data on why older users, who statistically have a higher rate of ailments, aren’t using medical marijuana at the rate of their younger counterparts. (MPR News)