As a result of the Minnesota Public Radio News story, Gov. Pawlenty ordered finance officials to review and improve the process used to monitor new hires.
During a news conference this afternoon, Pawlenty said the hiring freeze was working because only a few jobs have been added since the freeze was initiated in February of 2008. But he said the process could be improved.
"It's pretty clear that some of the paperwork and some of the review of the decisions was not as aggressive as we would like," Pawlenty said. "We're moving towards a harder freeze with different procedures and because of that and also because of these budget decisions, there will be significant layoffs."
DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley questioned Pawlenty's commitment to improving the system.
"The governor always wants to take another look at something after there's been a press story that shows mismanagement in his government," Winkler said.
Winkler has criticized Pawlenty's oversight of several agencies. He said a recent report by the Legislative Auditor has found that several of the larger state agencies don't have proper oversight of funding. Winkler said Pawlenty should be spending more time running state government.
"He is the CEO of all the state agencies under in his control," Winkler said. "He should spending time with his commissioners making sure that they are following through on the policies he has set.
"He should be spending time meeting with his commissioners as a cabinet and setting clear expectations. And he should be prioritizing funding and policy work to make sure that the basic job of following state money and following things like a hiring freeze are getting done."
The criticism surfaced after Minnesota Public Radio News reported that there were 5,098 hires since Pawlenty issued the hiring freeze in February of 2008 and April 21. During the same time period, 4,827 positions were vacated. MPR News also found that no one in Minnesota Management and Budget or the Governor's office was watching to see if the hires were considered essential services. The rationale for some of the hires also included one line job titles or no reasoning at all.
Judy Plante, Commissioner at Minnesota Management and Budget, said the process will be improved. She said they intend to remind agency heads about the requirements in place as a result of the freeze. That means a proper explanation has to be given for nonessential personnel.
Exemptions for public safety, health and corrections are in place. Plante said she'll also review new hires to ensure that there's a proper explanation for each decision but won't enforce those decisions.
"What we'll be doing is working with the agencies to make sure that they considering the right information and we'll be continuing to track overall numbers," Plante said. "So I would anticipate that I would periodically review the report but not reviewing every individual decision. Those are the decisions by the commissioners make about who's being hired in their agencies to meet the priority needs."
Plante said the commissioners and agency heads are best equipped to decide who they need in their workforce.