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Willmar mayor cancels speaker after '60 Minutes' report on her son

WILLMAR -- Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish said he has canceled the appearance of Jerene Mortenson, Ph.D., as speaker for the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. Yanish said Tuesday he has confirmed three alternate speakers for the breakfast, which is scheduled for 6:15 to 8 a.m. May 12 at the Willmar Conference Center. The public is invited.

"In light of the controversy surrounding the son of our scheduled speaker for the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, I am making a change toward a more local focus and the issues facing us in Willmar and the surrounding area,'' Yanish said.

The controversy Yanish was referring to involves accusations raised by a "60 Minutes'' report that Greg Mortenson, son of Jerene Mortenson, made misstatements about and misused funds involving his charity, the Central Asia Institute, which is working with schools and children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Greg Mortenson is the author of The New York Times award-winning "Three Cups of Tea.'' Jerene Mortenson's breakfast topic was to have been "The Fourth Cup of Tea: Empowering children in Pakistan, Afghanistan and here in the United States.''

Yanish said the alternate speakers will be Bob Poe, director of Youth for Christ in Willmar; Dr. Rick Lee, chief executive officer of Woodland Centers in Willmar; and Pastor Pablo Cruz.

"My hope is to hold up a positive vision for our city's future and pray for community concerns, especially the recent tragedies in the Willmar area,'' Yanish said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150