- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015
St. Paul archdiocese charged over handling of abuse claims

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Prosecutors on Friday charged the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis over its handling of clergy abuse claims, saying church leaders failed to protect children from unspeakable harm and “turned a blind eye” to repeated reports of inappropriate behavior by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys.

The archdiocese as a corporation is charged with six gross misdemeanor counts. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said there’s not yet enough evidence to charge any individuals.

The charges stem from the archdiocese’s handling of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys and faces prosecution involving a third boy in Wisconsin.

Prosecutors say church leaders failed to respond to “numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct” by Wehmeyer from the time he entered seminary until he was removed from the priesthood in 2015. The criminal complaint says many people - including parishioners, fellow priests and parish staff - reported issues with Wehmeyer, and many of those claims were discounted.

“It is not only Curtis Wehmeyer who is criminally responsible for the harm caused, but it is the archdiocese as well,” Choi said. He said church leaders had the power to remove Wehmeyer from ministry, but “time and time again turned a blind eye in the name of protecting priests at the expense of protecting children.”

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Minneapolis repeals laws against spitting and lurking

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minneapolis wiped away ordinances Friday that banned lurking and spitting in the city, responding to critics who said the local laws unfairly targeted minorities.

The Minneapolis City Council voted 12-1 to repeal the ordinances, which Mayor Betsy Hodges called antiquated and unnecessary.

But council President Barb Johnson - who cast the lone no vote - said the lurking law allowed police to stop people before they committed crimes in neighborhoods like the north-side ward she represents. She said she worried that disorderly conduct or curfew laws could be the targets.

“My citizens - when they’re contacting me - are concerned about people in their alleys,” Johnson said. “People are sometimes carjacked out of alleys.”

The head of the city’s police union, Lt. Bob Kroll, also opposed the repeal, saying the law was a useful tool for preventing more serious crimes. Minneapolis police said they made 89 arrests for lurking and one for spitting in 2014.

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Minnesota PUC approves certificate of need for pipeline

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota regulators approved a certificate of need Friday for the proposed Sandpiper pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Superior, Wisconsin, but will hold separate proceedings on exactly which path it should take across northern Minnesota.

While the Public Utilities Commission agreed 5-0 that the $2.6 billion, 610-mile pipeline is necessary and in the public interest, commissioners didn’t foreclose the possibility of rerouting it away from environmentally sensitive lakes, streams and wetlands. Enbridge Energy will still have to go through a lengthy review of its proposed route and a proposed alternative for part of the route that avoids some lakes and wetlands.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge argued that Sandpiper is needed to move the growing supply of North Dakota crude safely and efficiently to market. The company said it would also ease rail congestion and create about 1,500 construction jobs.

But environmentalists and tribal groups said the risk of leaks is too high, including where the route would run through the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

“The commissioners put the needs and profits of a private, foreign company ahead of Minnesota’s pristine, historically and economically valuable headwaters of the Mississippi,” said Richard Smith, a founder of Friends of the Headwaters, which pushed for a more southern route.

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Lawmakers go public with budget agreements made in private

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Details surfaced Friday about the budget plans Minnesota lawmakers will vote on during an upcoming special session, including how $525 million in new school money will be parceled out.

The education plan negotiated in private but posted publicly ahead of an afternoon committee hearing shows schools are in line for a sizable increase in per-pupil allowances. Basic aid will rise from $5,831 per student now to $5,948 next school year and $6,067 the year after. That represents back-to-back 2 percent increases.

Early childhood education programs will receive about $95 million more in total over the next two years, with added preschool scholarships accounting for half.

The bill still requires legislative approval and a signature by Gov. Mark Dayton. The Democratic governor has yet to call a special session, but lawmakers face a July 1 deadline for action to avoid state service disruptions and the layoff of thousands of state workers.

A Saturday special session sought by House Speaker Kurt Daudt didn’t materialize because of disagreement over how to deal with a new law altering powers of the state auditor, a change Dayton wants rolled back or at least delayed for a year to 2017. That law, signed by Dayton in late May, gives counties new ability to hire private firms for financial audits now done by the state auditor. Democratic Auditor Rebecca Otto contends it would weaken oversight of taxpayer dollars, but backers say it will save counties money and get them results quicker.

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