Joe Biernat

In the grand scheme of things, the sins of the former Minneapolis City Council member don't amount to much. Basically, Biernat was busted for accepting a few thousand dollars' worth of free plumbing work from a union hack looking for a seat on the Plumber's Examining Board. Sleazy, yes, but hardly graft on the scale of Tammany Hall. Yet Biernat's tumble--which culminated with five felony convictions in federal court last November--served some important ends, not the least of which was wiping the smug, self-satisfied smirk from the face of Minneapolis Officialdom. Is there a city whose proclamations of civic purity are more relentless and tiresome than those of Minneapolis? It's as if no one remembers that the Mill City was once home to one of the most notoriously corrupt municipal regimes in American history (that of Doc Ames, documented in Lincoln Steffan's muckraking classic Shame of the Cities). Like any good scandal, the Biernat case was rife with amusing, telling, and pathetic details. The best of the lot: When FBI agents swooped down on Biernat and wrestled a confession out of him, the poor schmuck was actually toting a sack of his own feces. Turns out he was on his way to a doctor, having become ill on a church trip to Guatemala. Talk about your shitty days.


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