Conflict of interest grows as Howard takes over housing committee

We reported in February on Rep. Mike Howard’s conflict of interest between his job at Haven Housing and his outward support of state housing policies that benefit his employer. Howard, a Democrat representing Richfield, has now been promoted to Chairman of the Housing Policy and Finance Committee, making the conflict of interest even more glaring and troublesome.

Bring it Home, Minnesota, a coalition of housing organizations that lobbies for more funding, immediately tweeted about Howard’s promotion:

They are “grateful” one of their insiders is in such a powerful position. Why shouldn’t they be? Howard’s dual role as Communications Manager at Haven (a partner in the Bring It Home, Minnesota coalition) and powerful committee chair will likely pay dividends in the form of increased funding.

The conflict of interest is easy to follow:

  • Committee Chair Howard appropriates more funding for housing programs
  • The new state money flows to his employer, Haven Housing
  • Haven Housing pays Howard his salary (maybe a raise?)
  • Howard buys new shoes for his kids

(Not to mention Howard’s $48,250 legislative salary)  

As we wrote in February, working for Haven Housing and leading a committee is not against the law. The violation of law occurs when Chairman Howard fails to disclose the conflict of interest to his constituents and colleagues in the House. So far, that disclosure hasn’t happened.

Some non-profit boards begin every meeting with a call for conflicts of interest with the proposed agenda. It’s hard to see how Chairman Howard wouldn’t have to announce a conflict every time he gavels the committee to order.

According to Haven Housing’s 2021 IRS Form 990, they received $666,326 from government grants. That’s likely to go up now that their employee is in charge of the Housing Finance Committee.

As of this writing, Howard’s contact info is still on the Haven website, pronouns and all.

Someone on the House Housing Policy and Finance Committee should ask about the Chairman’s conflict of interest when the committee convenes in January.