Karen Himle resigns from U, says it’s not because of film flap

Karen Himle has resigned as a vice president at the University of Minnesota but says it’s not because of a controversial decision she made in the fall over an environmental documentary film.

Himle said she’s stepping down as vice president for university relations after four years to return to the private sector. She said she had planned to work at the U only through the term of University President Robert Bruininks, who is leaving next year. Eric Kaler has been appointed the new president.

The film flap came in September when Himle canceled the television broadcast and premiere of a univerity-produced documentary, “Troubled Waters,” which looked at connections between farming and pollution in the Mississippi River.

The decision was loudly criticized by some environmental groups, including the The Land Stewardship Project, which demanded her resignation because Himle’s husband, John Himle, is CEO of the Himle Horner public relations firm, which represents a trade association that lobbies for agribusiness.

University officials eventually reversed the decision, the film was aired and she apologized.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 12/10/2010 - 11:58 am.

    I am in disagreement over who bears the primary responsibility for the Troubled Waters fiasco and don’t think that it is Ms. Himle. The president and the academics/administrators involved are also culpable.

    It would be best if this whole matter were independently investigated, since the president, the provost, the administration including the Office of the General Counsel, and several deans are involved.

    Having them do the investigation is what is called a conflict of interest and it is unethical.
    In support of this claim, please see the post:

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    (Who will guard the guardians?)

    Link: http://bit.ly/bfvKl4

    “Mr. Rotenberg said he is the lawyer; his clients, the President and the Provost, have already answered the question.” Faculty Consultative Committee, Oct 22, 2010.

    “If the clients of the general counsel are the president and the provost, then a conflict of interest prevents the general counsel from conducting an independent investigation and from advising any other groups, such as the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee or the Faculty Consultative Committee.”


    Rule 1.7 (a) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct (formerly known as the Canons of Ethics).

    “Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest.

    A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

    (1) the representation of one client [president and provost] will be directly adverse to another client [the University]; or

    (2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients [the University] will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client [president and provost], a former client or a third person, or by a personal interest of the lawyer [a general counsel who may serve at the pleasure of the president].”

    A mechanism for independent investigation has been suggested: A Call For An Independent Investigation of Troubled Waters at the University of Minnesota | Community Voices: Star-Tribune

    Link: http://bit.ly/9uuucR

    William B. Gleason, U of M faculty and alum

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