Investigate Bremer Foundation salaries

A national philanthropy watchdog group wants a state investigation into what it describes as “suspicious and potentially illegal” salaries and activities by trustees of the St. Paul-based Otto Bremer Foundation, whose pay rivals that of CEOs at other foundations.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) sent a letter to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson saying three trustees of the foundation violated “many principles of good governance” by removing the executive director and taking control themselves. It pointed to the trustees’ decision to increase their own compensation by more than 1,000 percent in a decade.

“I certainly don’t think Mr. Bremer would have envisioned this level of compensation,” Aaron Dorfman, NCRP executive director, said on Friday.

The foundation owns 92 percent of the stock of Bremer Financial Corp. and manages a $130 million investment portfolio. The three trustees are full-time employees of the foundation who “directly and actively manage the foundation staff who are accountable to the trustees who are in turn accountable to the regulatory agencies that oversee them,” Austin wrote.

Dorfman didn’t buy it. “The complicated structure involving the foundation and the bank, and the potential for abuse that comes along with it, makes it even more important that the trustees follow best practices for good governance, and they are now in violation of so many I’ve lost count,” he said.

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