I had misinterpreted my secretary’s message, and thought that you were with the Rochester Post. I checked around about you and your blog last night. While I am sure that your blog will not publish the report of Dean Mengler, his report raises significant issues not only about Ms. Lawler but also, based on my review of your blog last evening, your own objectivity. At any rate, it is my policy not to interview with bloggers. While I should stop right here, I feel chagrined in having agreed to a telephone interview with the Rochester Post, finding out that in fact you represent a blog called the Minnesota Post, and having raised your expectations of an interview.
You ask about my management style. In my career I served as full time Chairman of the DFL Party for two and one half years, managing a staff of approximately 40 people during the election years. In the 1980’s I served as Commissioner of Commerce for seven years, having merged four departments (Real Estate, Securities, Insurance, and Banking) into one agency, and in the process merging together the hundreds of employees who were formerly employed by the separate agencies. In the 1990’s I founded and headed a successful law firm composed of approximately ten people, and for eight years I served as Attorney General. In total, I have managed thousands of people over the past 25 years, and not once did anyone in any office I managed file against me or any of my managers a discrimination complaint, an unfair labor practices complaint, a harassment complaint, or a personnel complaint. There are not many executives who can make this claim.
It was not after I left office, when a small cabal of attorneys attempted to organize a union in the Attorney General office, was any issue raised about my management style. As Attorney General I faced budgetary pressures which resulted in the reduction of the office from 250 attorneys to approximately 160 attorneys. I recognize that, having laid off over 75 attorneys, there are people very bitter with me. This is inevitable. Your cabal of union attorneys, however, does not speak for the Attorney Generals staff. Indeed, over the years I found that the vast majority of attorneys I served with are talented, hardworking, and mission-driven. Most importantly, we got the job done for the people of Minnesota.
The union organizing committee, however, is so weak that it has to resort to anonymity in an effort to give CPR to their comatose effort. Instead of putting their names by their accusations, they hide in the cloak of anonymity looking for any scribner to serve as their hand maiden. According to the Mengler report, Ms. Lawler based her accusations on “bar talk” with her union organizing committee, and when requested by Dean Mengler, they refused to give any details of their accusations. Dean Mengler’s report points out that Ms. Lawler committed a serious breach of the ethical canons by her conduct. The anonymous union organizers do the same.
For the 150 years Minnesota has been a state, the law has not allowed the attorneys to organize a union at the Attorney General’s Office. Forty eight of the fifty states do not allow such organizing activity. Along the same lines, employees in the offices of the governor and legislators cannot form a union.
When I was Attorney General, I opposed any attempt to change the law to allow the attorneys to form a union. The state must speak with one voice on legal matters. With 3,000 cases pending at any time, the state cannot have a jamboree of chickadees chirping different legal policy from every branch of government. The public rightfully holds the Attorney General—as the elected constitutional officer—accountable for all of them. The Attorney General is elected by the people and is directly accountable to the people. I can guaranty you that if the federal government had a similar structure of an independently elected Attorney General we would not have had the spectacles of Abu Ghraib, FISA seizure letters, or the Total Information Awareness project.
The sheer volume of work in the Attorney General’s Office means that the Attorney General cannot be involved in every case. As a result, the Attorney General fulfills the mission of the office largely through the assistant attorneys he or she appoints. The law is clear: those people appointed to the position of Assistant Attorney General occupy a position of trust and have a fiduciary duty to the Attorney General. A union is simply not compatible with the constitutional and fiduciary relationship of trust and confidence owed to the Attorney General, who is charged with representing the public interest.
The latest public spectacle on your blog—in which disgruntled and largely anonymous attorneys throw grenades at an elected official they are supposed to represent in order to administer CPR to their dying organizing campaign—does nothing but show why a union of the assistant attorneys general is a bad idea. The mud throwers do a real disservice to the citizens, the state, and the many talented, hardworking employees in the office with their vitriolic and unlawful organizing campaign.