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OTHER OPINION: Conflicts

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opinion Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Former Minnesota House Speaker Steve Sviggum recently announced that he would resign his position as teacher and legislative fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of public Affairs.

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The decision will allow Sviggum to remain a member of the U of M Board of Regents, which he joined in February. The first thought that flickered like a red flag when the announcement came of Sviggum serving in two capacities at the U was “conflict of interest.” How could he accept a paycheck for teaching and fundraising for the Humphrey School and serve disinterestedly as a Regent?

Sviggum has taught at the Humphrey School since 2007. His contract as legislative fellow requires him to raise funds for all but $12,000 of his $80,000 salary. As a Regent, he will work gratis.

Choosing between the two jobs was the simplest, most direct and common sense decision.

Sviggum argued that holding the two jobs would have been just fine. He said he didn’t see any conflict at all. 

Sviggum said that while he accepted the committee’s decision, he did not agree with it: “I still think I’m right.”

Such blindness adds to the question of conflict — he can’t see it and doesn’t believe it when it’s pointed out to him.

A panel recommended Sviggum choose between the jobs. He chose the Regents. He reluctantly accepted the committee’s dictum saying he was disappointed he wouldn’t be able to teach.

Sviggum has served Minnesota well in many capacities. He now has the opportunity to extend his service to the University of Minnesota as a member of the Board of Regents. But keeping a fundraiser role, as well as teaching, would — at worst — cause him to favor one set of responsibilities over the other, or — at best — cause a lack of focus.

— Bemidji Pioneer

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