Zimmermann returns

MPR reporter Brandt Williams talked to former Minneapolis City Council member Dean Zimmerman today. He’s serving the last months of his sentence for bribery, and has returned to Minnesota. Before his trial in 2006, Zimmermann told Williams his side of the story.

So I asked Brandt to write something for News Cut about Zimmermann’s return.

Zimmermann arrived outside the Volunteers of America facility on Lake Street with his wife and one of his sons. The former council member gained a few gray hairs in his beard, but lost weight. Zimmermann says he lost about 55 lbs.

“It’s a really simple formula,” he says. “Eat less, move more.”

Zimmermann was convicted in 2006 on three counts of bribery. Developer Gary Carlson had given Zimmermann $7,200 in cash and then asked him for help with some zoning issues. Carlson had been wearing a wire for the FBI and secretly videotaped the meetings. Zimmermann believed Carlson was making campaign donations and didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.

Zimmermann was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but his time was reduced after he took part in a drug treatment program. While at the halfway house, Zimmermann will work for a construction company, doing the kind of handywork he did before he was elected to the city council in 2001.

Once his sentence is completed, Zimmermann says he plans to start a solar energy business. A member of the Green Party, Zimmermann was sounding the alarm about global warming before it became popular to do so.

In fact, according to Zimmermann’s wife, Jenny Heiser, Zimmermann tried to start something of a green revolution while in prison. She says Zimmermann got some of the prisoners to start vegetable gardens, and tried to get the prison to start recycling. But both of those efforts were squelched.

“The warden came in and he had the guards tear the gardens out, that the prisoners had put in,” says Heiser. “It goes against the contracts they have. And the same with the recycling, they have to show up with so much waste or else their contracts aren’t being met.”

When asked if her husband had expressed a desire to hold political office again, Heiser says, “That’s his business, but it’s not going to be through our house or at our house, that’s for sure.”

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