Radinovich resigns from Iron Range resources post

Joe Radinovich, DFL candidate for Congress in the 8th District, talks during a debate Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at the Depot in Duluth, Minn. Joining Radinovich in the debate was the Republican candidate Pete Stauber and Independence party candidate Ray "Skip" Sandman.

Former DFL 8th District congressional candidate Joe Radinovich resigned from his state agency post Thursday amid lingering questions about his hiring.

Radinovich went to work last month as a senior policy advisory at the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRR). But a recent report in the Timberjay raised questions about the hire and whether normal procedures were followed at the Eveleth-based economic development agency.

Gov. Tim Walz's office later confirmed the procedures were not followed and issued a letter of reprimand.

In announcing his resignation, Radinovich said his intent is to refocus the public’s attention on the agency’s important mission. He informed Commissioner Mark Phillips that his last day will be April 30.

"The agency's strength is its dedicated staff. Everyday, they come together from different backgrounds and different perspectives to apply their talent for the betterment of our region," Radinovich said in a letter announcing his resignation. "Their work is what drives our success, and unfortunately the circumstances surrounding my hiring at the agency have taken the focus off of that work and placed it elsewhere. It's my intent to refocus the public's attention on the important mission of the IRRR through my action today."

Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset, a former Commissioner of the IRRR, said it was "appropriate" that Radinovich resign to restore credibility to the agency. She also serves on the board of the IRRR in her capacity as a legislator.

"I care deeply about improving and maintaining the integrity and reputation of the IRRRB because it does critical work for the residents of the Iron Range," she said in a statement. "This incident was embarrassing for the organization, and I have many questions that still need to be answered about the process and the involvement of the governor's office."

Republicans in the Legislature had raised concerns about Radinovich's hiring after the newspaper reported that the agency limited the time the $100,000 per year position was posted and that officials appeared to pass over a female candidate for the position with far more relevant experience and education. Radinovich was also listed on an organization chart before he was hired.

On Thursday, the state Senate voted to establish a hiring law that would prohibit agencies from tailoring job requirements to fit a particular candidate.

“State government positions are to serve the people. They’re not to be rewards for friends, family or political colleagues,” said Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake.

Radinovich served in the state House for one term and lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber in the race for the 8th District last fall.

A spokesperson for Mark Phillips, the current commissioner of the board, said "Commissioner Phillips is committed to exceeding the Governor’s expectations in his duties and responsibilities as commissioner of the Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation."

Reporter Tim Pugmire contributed to this post.

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