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Other Opinion: Demand accountability for IRRR hiring

Clearly, Minnesota taxpayers are owed answers — and accountability, after the revelation last week that politician Joe Radinovich, a Crosby native, has been handed a managerial position with a state agency, a job with a six-figure salary that seemingly was created just for him. Additionally, the position was posted only a day and a candidate with "far more relevant experience and education," according to a lawmaker, was passed over.

The office of Gov. Tim Walz ought to be screaming loudest for an explanation since the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, or IRRR, cited the "expectations of ... the Governor's office" for its fast-track hiring of Radinovich. But the governor's office "was not involved in any decision-making related to the expedited hiring," it said. Nonetheless, it does not appear to be digging any deeper or asking questions on behalf of Minnesotans paying for all this.

The governor's office only said it would start "requiring, rather than recommending," that classified managerial positions be posted at least 21 days. That's it? Nothing about the questionable-at-best hiring process here? And was the false claim about urgency from the governor's office just a no-biggie misstatement?

Radinovich's hiring only reinforced the impressions of many, especially non-DFLers and non-IronRangers, that the IRRR is nothing more than a "revolving door of political patronage for Iron Range DFLers," as the Timberjay newspaper, which first broke the Radinovich story last week, wrote. Reinforcing that negative view even further was IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips' recent appointment of former DFL legislator Jason Metsa as deputy commissioner. Metsa had lost to Radinovich in the 8th District DFL primary last August; Radinovich then lost to Republican Congressman Pete Stauber in November. But neither defeated DFLer was out of work long, thanks to the IRRR.

Only fueling suspicions, Radinovich doesn't have a college degree, and, "notably," as the News Tribune reported, the description of his job included no minimum education requirement. That seems highly unusual for a top managerial position that pays $100,000 a year, more than twice the median household income in St. Louis County.

Even more suspect, Radinovich's name appeared on a handwritten update of the IRRR organizational chart prior to the job even being posted, as the Timberjay reported.

"Actions like this speak louder than words and support the worst images of an agency that has vast resources to do good work. But it needs to have the respect and trust of the public. Actions like this do damage," Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset, a former IRRR commissioner, told a News Tribune reporter last week. "I've been a defender of the agency for years, because the view from St. Paul can be a little jaded."

Perhaps deservedly so — especially without any sort of plausible explanation here or public accountability.

-- Duluth News Tribune

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