Watchdog group: Bremer Foundation trustee pay 'outrageous'


A national philanthropy watchdog group is calling for a state investigation into the management of one of the region's biggest charitable foundations.

MPR News reports that the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in Washington, D.C. wants Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson to investigate the St. Paul-based Otto Bremer Foundation.

The philanthropy oversight group said that pay for three trustees who oversee the foundation's $800 million in assets is out of line. According to records filed with the state, the trustees paid themselves more than $1.2 million in 2013. Brian Lipschultz received $466,198, Daniel Reardon $465,313 and Charlotte Johnson $294,000. In 2004, the three trustees received combined payment of nearly $125,000, a figure that has grown nearly 10 times in 10 years.

The trustees declined MPR's multiple requests for comment.

Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the NCRP, told MPR that trustees at most charitable foundations, if paid at all, earn a median annual salary of $24,000.

"It's just an outrageously high level of compensation for trustee service," Dorfman said.

Last year, the Otto Bremer Foundation gave away more than $38 million some 150 charities, non-profit organizations and government agencies in communities in the Upper Midwest where Bremer Banks are located. Just this month, the Marshall Independent reported that the foundation gave $172,000 in grants to the Marshall-Lyon County Library and adult literacy programs in southwest Minnesota, the Mille Lacs County Times had the story that the foundation gave a $47,000 grant to fund renovation efforts for the Milaca Band Shell, and the Bismarck Tribune said funds from the foundation will allow The Banquet, a social service agency that serves free meals, to expand its weekly offerings.

The Business Journal explained that the Otto Bremer Foundation is also the holding company that owns Bremer Bank, which has nearly 2,000 employees at its locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

Randi Roth, the foundation's executive director, was fired earlier this month. "Now the three trustees are splitting that job as co-CEOs. Dorfman said putting both managerial and fiduciary control of the organization in just a few hands removes accountability and violates commonly accepted good governance principles that most foundations follow," MPR said.

The 1944 trust that established the foundation gives the trustees the power to manage and operate it. The trust says the trustees, if they choose, can be paid up to four percent of the foundation's cash income. Though the trustees pay has grown, it's under that level.

A spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson would not say if the office plans to investigate.

Next Up

radio station, microphone

Christian music broadcaster revealed as buyers of Go Radio

Educational Media Foundation. operates the K-Love brand, which has a presence already in the Twin Cities.

Screen Shot 2020-12-01 at 5.04.39 PM

St. Paul police chief reportedly fires officer who shot naked, unarmed man

Chief Todd Axtell said the officer's use of force was not reasonable.

Trevor May

Report: Trevor May leaving Twins to sign with Mets

The right-hander will sign a two-year deal to head to New York

Car crash

'Grim' milestone: Minnesota's traffic deaths reach 364, tying 2019 total

“With fewer vehicles on the road during the 2020 pandemic, the loss of life on Minnesota roads is beyond disappointing."

Devin Weiland

Charges: Albert Lea man, 21, fired around 90 shots at police, residents

Weiland was arrested after a standoff that lasted more than eight hours.

Body storage warehouse

Body storage warehouse 'ready if needed for COVID-19 fatality management'

The warehouse is currently storing PPE and testing supplies.


Signs come down at Giordano's restaurant in Uptown

It appears the restaurant has closed for good.

State Capitol.

Walz eyes COVID-19 relief package totaling $300-$600 million amid budget surplus

The state forecasted a budget surplus for the remainder of the biennium.

Bar beer

Walz non-committal on extension of restaurant, gym closures

He has suggested that the ban on mixing with people outside your household could continue over Christmas.

scratch lottery ticket

State lottery: Don't give scratch-offs as gifts to minors

The Minnesota Lottery participates in an annual responsible gambling campaign focusing on underage lottery play during the holidays.

Marijuana, cannabis

Minnesota adds 2 more qualifying conditions for medical marijuana

There will be 17 conditions that qualify people to obtain medical marijuana in Minnesota.