Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman announced his intent to resign Wednesday night, citing fallout from missteps with his nonprofit, Journey Home Minnesota.
The charity, which provided single-family homes for veterans and other families in need, started dissolving in January after he fell behind on property taxes and struggled to repay three contractors more than $160,000 for construction and design work dating back to 2017.
A county review found that the sale of two residential properties funded through $60,000 in Community Development Block Grants had violated the terms of Huffman’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority agreement and constituted an “improper conflict of interest,” according to a letter sent Tuesday to county leaders.
During a time of financial distress, Huffman hired his son Alex as a real estate agent to help offload the properties in New Brighton and White Bear Lake. The New Brighton home was sold to his other son, Zach, without prior approval from the County Board, the review found. Alex Huffman made commissions on both sales.
Blake Huffman announced his intent to retire from politics one day after the letter outlining the violations was delivered.
“Although I no longer have an official role with Journey Home, I was in charge when these mistakes were made and I take accountability for them,” he wrote in an e-mail to colleagues Wednesday. “I have enjoyed the tremendous progress the county has made in my 6+ years in this role and wish for the best for all involved at the county.”
He said he will resign effective June 1.
Board Chairman Jim McDonough issued a statement Wednesday evening saying that a special election will be required to fill Huffman’s seat for the remainder of his term, which expires in 2020.
“We commit to complete transparency throughout this process, beginning with discussion and action at our board meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019,” McDonough wrote. “At that meeting, the board will vote on appointments to fill committee assignments Commissioner Huffman currently holds and will take up other business related to the resignation.”
His statement did not address the allegations against Huffman.
Huffman, a retired vice president with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, served on the Shoreview City Council for 16 years before he was elected to the Ramsey County Board in 2012, representing suburbs in the northern third of the county. He was reelected with no opposition in 2016.
A Republican, Huffman announced he was running for governor in April 2017, touting his management of Journey Home Minnesota and his time on the County Board. At the time, he said Journey Home was growing statewide and announced plans to build homes in northern Minnesota. He bowed out of the race five months later.
Staff writers Shannon Prather and Greg Stanley contributed to this report.