Minneapolis mayor did not have city interns work on campaign

Text messages from high school interns created confusion over whether city resources were used for Jacob Frey’s campaign

By: - July 13, 2021 5:37 pm

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a news conference on April 19, 2021, as the jury begins deliberations in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did not have city interns work on his reelection campaign, a potential campaign finance violation, his campaign manager said on Tuesday following accusations that Frey was misusing city resources. 

The allegations surfaced on Twitter on Friday after some Minneapolis DFL caucus attendees received text messages from people identifying themselves as interns for Mayor Jacob Frey.

Kathleen Cole, a political science professor at Metro State University, was among those who received texts from an intern named Miranda, who said she was recruiting volunteers for events that included “sorting and packing food to feed the hungry” and other community events. If people agreed, interns then said campaign staffers would follow up with more information. 

Seeking clarification, Cole replied asking if Miranda was working for Frey’s official city office or his campaign, according to text messages the Reformer reviewed. Some texts showed interns responded that she was working for the “Mayors office” and that the volunteer opportunities were “just in general for the city of Minneapolis.” 

Cole then reported Frey to the Minneapolis DFL and submitted an ethics complaint to the city of Minneapolis, which she posted to Twitter. Later, she asked people who received similar “unethical and illegal texts” to send screenshots of them to an email account she set up called [email protected]. Cole is also a campaign volunteer for Elliot Payne, who is running for city council in Ward 1, although she said she filed the complaint as a constituent of Frey and did not talk to Payne’s campaign about it. 

Frey’s campaign says it all boils down to a misunderstanding on the part of the intern, Miranda, who the campaign says was confused about the distinction. A campaign official says the interns have since been counseled about the difference between the official city side and the campaign. 

Joe Radinovich, Frey’s campaign manager, said in a statement that Frey has opted to recruit campaign volunteers for community-based events, including filling food boxes, cooking meals for single mothers and building wheelchair ramps to improve accessibility. 

“In our efforts to sign up recruits from a list of caucus attendees, a high school campaign intern mistakenly identified herself as an intern for the mayor’s City Hall office,” he said. “We’ve since coached our staff and interns on the distinction between the campaign and City Hall office, in addition to adjusting the recruitment script. We are grateful for the enthusiastic support from our volunteers and understand that mistakes happen. We apologize for any confusion, and look forward to our continued outreach and volunteer events.”

The campaign also noted that all of its high school campaign interns are learning the ropes while working remotely, which can be challenging.

A Minneapolis city spokesperson confirmed that the city does not employ anyone by Miranda’s name. 

After learning the intern works for Frey’s campaign and not the city, Cole said she will drop her complaint against Frey’s campaign.

“It is ambiguous as to whether the person is reaching out from the campaign or the office,” Cole said. “And that’s true regardless of the intern because the language is the same in all the initial texts. The campaign should know that it should be abundantly clear who is reaching out and in what capacity. That is a basic expectation for an ethical and transparent campaign.”

*This story has been updated to reflect that Cole dropped her complaint against Frey’s campaign.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.

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