The community celebrated when the organizers of St. Paul’s Grand Old Day announced the event would not, in fact, be cancelled for 2019, as they had initially announced. The revived festival went on to draw an estimated 200,000 guests when it was held in June, delighting supporters.
Little did revelers know, the group behind the long-running festival was under increasing scrutiny. A local investigation into the organization’s finances was already underway, and later that summer it would balloon into something much more.
A federal investigation
According to a report from KSTP, the investigation into the Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) – which organizes Grand Old Day – began with the St. Paul Police Department in May. The probe has been focused on the association’s finances and spending from 2014-18. During that time, GABA started to lose thousands of dollars each year, financial struggles that led to the reversed decision to cancel the 2019 festival.
In July, the police department handed the investigation to the federal government. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota, Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service are all involved, the station reports.
The current president of GABA – who came into the role at the start of 2019 – told the TV station he does not know the amount of money that might be in question, nor what type of financial mishandling might have occurred. He did, however, say there is “no doubt” the investigation is about the group’s finances. KSTP points out the investigation is not looking at any current GABA board members or staff.
What comes next
Depending on the findings of the investigation, former GABA members may find themselves facing federal criminal charges. It’s important to remember, however, an investigation does not mean guilt. Nor does a criminal charge mean guilt.
In federal financial fraud cases, as in all other circumstances, the accused parties should get a chance to defend themselves. While this investigation ties into a high-profile, beloved Twin Cities event, news headlines don’t determine a case: the facts do.