But it turns out that the foundation's trustees, while donating to many worthwhile causes, may have been helping themselves along with the privately-run charters. The watchdog group NCRP is now asking the IRS to investigate Bremer and take action if needed. NCRP’s executive director Aaron Dorfman sent a letter to IRS director for exempt organizations Tamera Ripperda detailing the many red flags among the trustees’ activities.
Trustee compensation has increased by 1000 percent over the past 10 years, during much of which time the country was struggling with a recession. In 2013 alone, the trustees received more than $1.2 million from the foundation, compared to the $24,000 median trustee compensation among the country’s largest foundations. The foundation owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank, and the trustees also receive payment for their roles with the financial institution. Further, in recent years, the foundation has significantly increased its legal fees.Recently, NCRP also called for an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General. Her office has yet to confirm whether she’ll be launching an investigation.
The Star Tribune's Paul Olson writes:
Somebody once described a foundation as a pile of money surrounded by people who want some. The Otto Bremer Foundation, and its three trustees, may be a shocking case in point for that cynicism...Unfortunately, Bremer is not the first Minnesota foundation to come under this kind of scrutiny."