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Expect more frustration than fireworks from Sviggum at 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.

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.

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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.