Commercial real estate broker among those behind Kautz attack mailing

A mystery in the recent Burnsville city election was at least partially solved in a Nov. 12 campaign filing.

Paul F. Gonyea, a south suburban commercial real estate broker, is listed as chairman and treasurer of a political committee that sent a pre-election mailing attacking Mayor Elizabeth Kautz.

He said this week that about 10 business owners were behind the 28,000-circulation mailing, and the committee got more than 20 donations.

“I don’t really know anyone who’s a fan of hers,” said Gonyea, of Gonyea Commercial Properties in Burnsville.

Business owners behind the mailing were chiefly motivated by the Performing Arts Center, Gonyea said. The mailing claims the mayor has underreported annual costs and “losses” since the center opened in 2009.

“I think lots of business owners are upset with the fact that the Performing Arts Center has not done simple, legitimate accounting,” said Gonyea. His personal accountant used city records to compile the figures in the mailing, Gonyea said.

The mailing had Kautz and her supporters crying foul and puzzling over its source. The only identifier on the four-sided, red-white-and-blue flier was the name “Coalition of Better Business in Burnsville” at the bottom of the front page.

In an interview with Sun Thisweek before the Nov. 6 election, Kautz called the mailing “malicious, nasty and hateful.” She said it was unprecedented in Burnsville city politics.

An ad from her campaign committee that ran in the Nov. 2 edition of Sun Thisweek featured a letter from Kautz, in which she urged residents to email her with questions “or call the city for facts.”

In  the ad, she denounced the mailing as a “hateful smear piece” that attacked her “character, integrity and ethics.”

It charged that the so-called Coalition of Better Business in Burnsville, whose name was on the mailing was not registered with the state and violated campaign law.

Gonyea bristled this week at the charge, noting that his Nov. 12 filing with the city clerk, even though it was post-election, fulfilled timely disclosure requirements under state law.

In the filing, Gonyea reported that the Coalition of Better Business in Burnsville spent $8,330 on the mailing, which was sent in late October.

Gonyea said there were no particular “ringleaders” behind the mailing and that he took on the reporting duties. He said business owners involved probably “don’t want to be disclosed.” He said he was the only commercial realtor among the core group, but “a number of” the other business owners own buildings.

Kautz won re-election Nov. 6 with 57 percent of the vote in a rematch with challenger Jerry Willenburg. She widened her victory margin over her 2008 race against Willenburg when she won 54 percent.

Willenburg vehemently denied any involvement with the mailing. Kautz strongly suggested in media interviews that Willenburg was likely to have had knowledge of the mailing effort if not outright involvement.

Not so, Gonyea said.

“I’ve talked to Willenburg. I let him put (campaign) signs up on my property. He had nothing to do with this, nor would he. He had absolutely no knowledge of this whatsoever.”

The mailing accuses Kautz of underreporting costs and losses at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center; acting to have a stoplight installed directly across from her condominium in the Heart of the City; not supporting the now-departed Grossman Chevrolet when closure was threatened by General Motors and instead ushering in a Costco store on the property; conflicts of interest stemming from her one-time employment as president and CEO of Aravia Group Inc., whose owner also owned a development company that did business in Burnsville; and overhyping the success of the Heart of the City despite some vacant condominiums and business failures.

Gonyea said there are no City Council votes in Kautz’s 17-year tenure as mayor involving one of his properties that would turn him against her.

“I’ve actually always been cordial with her,” Gonyea said. “I’ve been around here longer than her.”

Under state law, a political committee or fund is required to register with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board within 14 days after receiving contributions of or spending more than $750.

In city elections, such filings are made with the city. Burnsville Clerk Macheal Brooks approximated that the mailings first went out on Oct. 29, giving the sender until Nov. 12 to meet the filing requirement.