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Expect more frustration than fireworks from Sviggum at Regents meeting

Minnesota Senate Republican communications coordinator Steve Sviggum, right, speaks with a staffer

Expect more fatigue and frustration than fireworks from Steve Sviggum tomorrow at the University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting. The board is expected to follow the advice of attorneys and ask Sviggum to resign as regent because of a conflict of interest.

Although Sviggum, communications director for the Republican caucus of the Minnesota Senate, is as firm as ever in his belief that this job does not conflict with the regent post, he admits the controversy has caused him sleepless nights “and a pit in my stomach.” 

He says he asked himself why he has put himself through weeks of unwanted publicity. It certainly isn’t money, he said, adding, “You could double my salary [as regent] and it would be still be zero.”

The lack of remuneration or any financial gain is part of Sviggum’s argument that no conflict exists. Fundamentally, he says, “I am not a decision maker and I don’t believe the Board of Regents has ever made a decision that affects the Senate.”  If any Board of Regent vote would present the perception of conflict, it could be remedied by his recusal, he said.

A spark of indignation does emerge when he explains the reasons for pursuing the fight. “It’s important to have a conservative voice on the board,” he said. “It’s important to have balance and be thoughtful.” Furthermore, he said, “It shouldn’t be my way or the highway.”

Actually, in terms of direct action, it’s no one’s way. The Board of Regents can’t fire a regent.  It can only gently or forcefully pressure him to resign.  The route the regents take should be clearer after tomorrow’s meeting.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/01/2012 - 12:06 pm.

    “Conflict of interest” can be actual, apparent or potential, with tangible or intangible payoffs. Seems to me that the there is at least a couple of those possibilities obviously present here.

    It would be interesting to analyze the anonymous opinion that Sviggum solicited to defend his position.

    Can’t play by the rules but wants to stay in the game.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/01/2012 - 12:49 pm.

    Sympathy

    Apparently he was in over his head when he asked himself (as he no doubt did) whether or not he was putting himself in an unresolvable ethical dilemma. Fortunately they got some pretty sharp pencil over there at the U.

  3. Submitted by Luke Ferguson on 03/02/2012 - 11:03 am.

    Regent’s Salary

    “You could double my salary [as regent] and it would be still be zero.”

    Yes, but no one is suggesting that the U of MN is paying you to lobby or effect legislative policy in any way. The U pays lobbyists for that. And I think the President himself probably makes an appearance or two over in St. Paul at the testifier’s table.

    “It’s important to have a conservative voice on the board.”

    No one is suggesting your views or “conservative voice” are unwelcome on the board of Regents. We are suggesting that you shouldn’t be allowed to be paid to be a conservative voice on the board of Regents. And last time I checked, you are being paid about 100k a year to keep those conservative vocal chords going.

    I think that Sviggum talking about this conflict of interest in these terms is intentional obfuscation on his part. He isn’t an idiot, I think that his statements are a calculated PR move to lessen the rather justified anger at his current employment situation. I find it rather disappointing that the Board cannot remove him. But I certainly hope they make a strong and public statement that the status quo is unacceptable.

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