Bremer Foundation calls claims ‘baseless’

A philanthropy watchdog group has asked the IRS to investigate what it labels “suspicious, and potentially illegal, behavior” at St. Paul’s venerable Otto Bremer Foundation.

But the Bremer Foundation strongly disputes that, calling the allegations “false and unfounded” and filled with “baseless assertions and innuendo.”

The Bremer Foundation controls some $800 million in assets and 92 percent of the stock of Bremer Bank. For decades, the foundation has given richly across Minnesota and western Wisconsin to help struggling families and to promote education, community organizations, and self-reliance.

Recent moves at the foundation have raised concern at the National Committee for [Responsive] Philanthropy, a Washington, D.C., group. Among the issues it raised in a letter Tuesday to the Internal Revenue Service:

  • Compensation for the Bremer Foundation’s three trustees totaled more than $1.2 million in 2013, soaring 1,000 percent in less than a decade.
  • Such salaries could violate laws that limit “compensation to levels that are reasonable, not excessive and comparable to that of the general public,” wrote Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the philanthropy watchdog group.
  • The foundation’s three trustees last month forced out the foundation’s executive director, Randi Roth, and indicated they would become co-CEOs.

“The new management structure gives complete oversight and fiduciary control to three individuals and completely removes accountability,” Dorfman’s letter said. “It also violates many principles of good governance set forth by nonprofit sector leadership organizations.”

Read full article