The Board of Trustees of Lao Family Foundation of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against its Board of Directors on 10/08/2015


Photo taken from the Board of Trustees of Lao Family Foundation’s press conference held on September 29, 2015

SUAB HMONG NEWS (10/08/2015) — According to an article published by the Pioneer Press on October 08, 2015, the Board of Trustees of Lao Family Foundation of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against its own Board of Directors on Thursday October 8, 2015.

The Pioneer Press article indicated the reason of the lawsuit:
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A simmering disagreement over leadership of one of the country’s oldest Hmong nonprofit organizations is boiling over.

The Lao Family Foundation has sued its own board of directors saying they have defied demands from the board of trustees for financial information related to the organization’s two annual Hmong festivals.

The board of trustees asserts that it is the nonprofit’s controlling board and that the board of directors answers to it.

The board of directors changed the group’s name in March — unbeknownst to the trustees — to the Hmong Family Foundation.

“There’s a historical dispute and unrest over the subject matter. This is sort of the culmination,” said Steve Ledin, the attorney for the group who filed the lawsuit. “The board of trustees is seeking transparency and clarity. They’ve tried and asked and begged and gotten nothing, so they’re looking to a higher authority to compel some answers.”

According to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Ramsey County District Court, the Lao Family Foundation was registered as a nonprofit corporation with the Minnesota Secretary of State in September 2012 and got 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status six months later.

According to the organization’s bylaws, the board of trustees manages the operations and creates a board of directors and other subcommittees, the suit said.

The “distinction is that the board of trustees is the highest form of management” and the “board of directors (act) as subservient or subcommittee agents of the board of trustees,” Ledin said.

“Our position is there’s only one board, and the bylaws are clear who’s in charge.”

As a result, the board of trustees has requested, but not received, financial documentation from the board of directors since at least August 2014 for the planning and execution of the annual Hmong New Year Celebration and the Hmong Fourth of July Freedom Celebration. Both events draw huge crowds.

In November 2014, the Minnesota Attorney General’s office began its own investigation into the organization, the suit said. A spokesman for the attorney’s office said Thursday that complaint and investigative data are nonpublic, so he could neither confirm nor deny existence of an investigation.

Last month, the board of trustees voted to eject the board of directors and made a final demand for financial records, the suit said.

The lawsuit asks the court to confirm that the board of trustees is in charge of the organization and to issue a temporary injunction against the board of directors.

A member of the board of directors and an attorney who has represented them in the past both declined comment Thursday.


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