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U of M Regents chair and general counsel dispute Steve Sviggum's version of 'discussions'

University of Minnesota Board of Regents Chair Linda Cohen and general counsel Mark Rotenberg dispute new Senate aide Steve Sviggum’s version of events surrounding any discussions about his future on the board.

They are claiming that Sviggum, executive assistant for the Senate Republican caucus, did not discuss the impact of his new job as it relates to him continuing to serve as a regent.

In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, they say:

“It is important to clarify media reports relating to Regent Steve Sviggum’s decision to accept a senior staff role with the majority caucus of the Minnesota Senate.

Steve Sviggum
Steve Sviggum

“Regent Sviggum did not discuss the job or consult about it with either the Chair or Vice Chair of the Board of Regents prior to taking the position.  Nor did Regent Sviggum discuss taking this position with the University General Counsel or seek his advice about doing so.

“The General Counsel will be providing legal advice to the Board as it considers this situation under the terms of its Code of Ethics and determines what steps are necessary to take in the best interest of the Board and the University.”

In an interview with MinnPost, Sviggum had said he has no intention of voluntarily resigning as regent, an unpaid position, and maintained that he took pains to let the regents know of the possibility of his current employment.

Sviggum acknowledges that the discussions he had with Cohen and Rotenberg were about hypothetical jobs, not specifically the one he has now with the Senate.

The former House speaker’s previous employment, as a fellow at the U’s Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, found him at odds with the board.  He chose to leave the Humphrey Institute rather than leave the Board of Regents.

At their February board meeting, the regents will consider adopting a revised Code of Ethics prompted by that dispute with the board.  The revised code specifically addresses employment at the university by stating that “a Regent shall not serve as a compensated University employee.”

The Code of Ethics is less clear about whether Sviggum has any conflict with his new job in which he is effectively the No. 2 man in the Senate behind Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem.  The code states: “An employment-related conflict of interest exists whenever a Regent’s employment relationships may impair independence of judgment.”

Sviggum is firm in his contention that he is no “decision-maker” and that he discussed with Cohen and the board’s vice-chair, counsel and president hypothetical jobs, including the possibility of joining legislative staff.  He maintains they agreed such jobs would not present a conflict.

The Board of Regent meets again Feb. 9. Sviggum says he intends to let any review take its course.

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Comments (7)

Is there a Minnesota Republican that can actually tell the truth. When pressed he says: "...that the discussions he had with Cohen and Rotenberg were about hypothetical jobs, not specifically the one he has now with the Senate."

So he didn't check with general counsel, he didn't talk to anyone about the Number Two position he took, he talked about being a Greeter at Wal-Mart or something and says that's enough.

Ethically challenged, the whole lot of them.

First communication of Communication Director:

A lie!?!?

Way to go, "restoring the confidence".

Or should we say, "keeping the con"?

The statement that Sviggum is "effectively the No. 2 man in the Senate behind Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem" is absolutely preposterous. The number 2 man in the senate is actually a woman, deputy majority leader Julianne Ortman. Any suggestion to the contrary is inexcusably irresponsible journalism.

Danny #3

I know flow charts are all the rage these days but they rarely reflect organizational reality.

Steve said right up front that he only postulated hypotheticals during his discussions. Cohen and Rotenberg have not said there was no discussion; they are simply parsing their words. "the job"..."this position".

No one's lying.

I applaud the regents. They could be drooling over the possiblity of having an inside man at the Capitol, someone with close and unfettered daily influence over the Senate leadership. Instead they are (appear to be) working through a deliberative process to asses potential and actual conflicts of interest.

That said, it's amazing that Sviggum himself is unable to recognize and acknowledge that at minimum there are significant perceived conflicts of interest posed by his new position at the Senate.

As usual, Mr. Swift seems to have his own strange version of the facts...

From the Star-Tribune:

Sviggum has made matters worse for himself in recent days by claiming that he had been assured by other regents and by the university's general counsel that taking a job "such as this one" did not present a conflict.

Those conversations evidently left the other participants with a very different understanding. They issued a stinging joint statement Wednesday, saying that no discussion of his new job took place.

Clearly, relationships that are crucial to Sviggum's effectiveness on the board have been damaged.


Mr. Sviggum should resign his position as Regent. Immediately.