Gov. Tim Walz's administration has announced it will change state hiring policy after a former state DFL legislator was appointed to a six-figure job at the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation without going through standard hiring procedures.
Joe Radinovich, who ran unsuccessfully for the 8th Congressional District seat last year, was hired in March by the economic development agency based in Eveleth, Minn., as a senior manager at a salary of $100,000.
The story was first reported Wednesday by The Timberjay newspaper.
Documents show the the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation asked for and received special permission from the Minnesota Management and Budget office to post the position for only 24 hours, rather than the required 7-day minimum.
In addition, an organizational chart produced five days before the job was posted showed Radinovich already installed in the position. Radinovich had previously worked as the department's assistant commissioner before resigning to run for Congress.
"I am deeply troubled by the hiring process at the [Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation] that lacked transparency and fairness," Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset, said in a statement Thursday. Layman sits on the agency's governing board and is a former Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation commissioner.
"This kind of political maneuvering undermines public confidence in the agency and reinforces the worst impressions people hold — fairly or not — about the [department]."
Over the years the agency has come under harsh criticism for giving millions of dollars in loans and grants to businesses that failed to provide the jobs they promised, and for not adequately overseeing the funding it provides.
In response to The Timberjay's story, the Walz administration announced it will institute an administration-wide policy requiring, rather than recommending, that all similar managerial positions be posted for at least 21 days.
"The governor's office was not involved in any decision-making related to the expedited hiring process, and did not direct the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation or Minnesota Management and Budget to vary from ordinary hiring procedures," Walz spokesperson Teddy Tschann said in a statement Thursday.
Tschann added that Walz is "committed to hiring the most qualified candidates and building an administration that reflects the diversity of Minnesota."
The department is charged with diversifying the economy of the Iron Range beyond mining. It issues tens of millions of dollars every year in grants and loans intended to spur economic development in northeastern Minnesota.