Posted on October 2, 2019

Leaders of Proposed North Minneapolis Credit Union Terminated amid Fraud Allegations

Andy Mannix and Marissa Evans, Star Tribune, October 1, 2019

Two key leaders of a proposed north Minneapolis credit union have been terminated amid allegations of fraud and mismanagement — casting doubt on whether a financial institution dedicated to economic justice will meet a deadline tied to a half-million dollars of public money.

Me’Lea Connelly and Joe Riemann, respectively the executive director and CFO for nonprofit Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP), both played integral roles in the proposed Village Financial Cooperative before being removed in August. In separate interviews Monday, they denied wrongdoing.

Connelly served as the public face for Village Financial, which was intended to promote economic empowerment in the black community. {snip}

The city pledged $500,000 to help Village Financial open, $410,000 of which is in the form of forgivable loan, if it met certain benchmarks, including opening a brick-and-mortar location by the end of this year.

Mayor Jacob Frey also announced intentions to give the organization another $500,000 in his 2020 budget proposal. That’s in addition to $50,000 of city money granted in 2018 and other philanthropic donations.


In a statement, ABEP’s board of directors said that Connelly was “terminated as a result of the Board’s concerns around organizational mismanagement, misconduct in regard to the organization’s finances and Credit Union application process, along with failure to meet day-to-day organizational expectations.”

Those concerns also included “misrepresentations made to stakeholders, potential fraudulent activity and theft.”

The statement does not mention Riemann, but Wells said both were removed due to “mismanagement of funds, overall negligence and management of the organization and staff.”


“It’s laughable at this point the desperation that this organization feels that they have to take these actions to defame me in order to legitimize what they have done,” Connelly said. “This is shameful for the community, shameful for the work they have on their shoulders and shameful for the transition of leadership.”

Riemann also denied the allegations in an interview.


Me’Lea Connelly